By Jon Shames on March 29, 2014
Selecting Jared Sullinger with the 21st pick in the 2012 NBA Draft is looking like it might be one of Danny Ainge's best moves yet. Of course, the red-flagged back that was responsible for Sullinger dropping so low did turn out to be a legitimate concern, but the burly forward has come back looking better than ever, and has cemented himself as a building block for Boston's rebuild behind his strong play. Here is Sully's report card for the year.
Through 45 games last year, Sullinger sported an average of 6.0 points per game in just under 20 minutes a night. This season, he has been featured on the low post, and the combination of his wide, 260-pound frame he uses to shove defenders aside and his improved three-point stroke have upped that average to 13.0 points per game in just a 7.5-minute increase of playing time. His methods aren't pretty, but he gets the job done.
If there was one thing that was a given when Sully was drafted, it was his fantastic rebounding ability. He has magnet-like hands that always seem to find the ball, especially on the offensive glass. That, coupled with his strong base and smart positioning makes him a force on the glass. He leads Boston in boards this year, and was the NBA leader in offensive rebounds during the month of January with an average of 4.9 per game.
When it comes to passing big men, Sully is up there with the best of them. He has doubled his assist average from last season, and is dropping 1.6 dimes per game this year. When posting up, he keeps his head up and always looks for cutters. He and fellow youngster Kelly Olynyk have quite the passing dynamic when they share floor time.
Defense is probably the only area in which Sully experienced a drop-off from last season to this one. By the numbers, he was actually the Cs' defensive MVP last year, although he was playing alongside Kevin Garnett during most of his floor time. This season, that isn't the case; his clumsy feet and poor lateral quickness prevent him from guarding athletic fours, and his lack of size is a major hindrance to his post defense.
Sullinger's progression in almost every area of play has been exciting for Celtics fans. In a league filled with explosive athletes dominating the frontcourt positions, Sully has carved out a niche as a below-the-rim player whose high IQ and shooting touch make up for his lack of athleticism. Behind a few monster games against elite bigs, he has shown that he can bang with the best players in the league. He's got a bright NBA future.
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