Although there are no Celtics on the All-Star team for the first time since 2007, Boston fans can get excited for the 21st edition of the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge. It has been almost a decade since the green had multiple participants in this game. Rookies Al Jefferson and Tony Allen were on the same team at the Pepsi Center in 2005, and now Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk find themselves on Team Webber.
While Sullinger is just one of two sophomores who was selected by Chris Webber, Olynyk looks to stand out in a sea of rookies on that squad. Heading into the All-Star break, the 13th overall pick in the 2013 draft is playing better than ever in his first NBA season. After playing 32 games in his 2012-13 All-American season at Gonzaga, it took Kelly 43 games to register his first professional double-double.
Then, he made it back-to-back double-doubles in Wednesday’s loss. If Olynyk gets his third in a row against the Suns, then he would become just the second Celtic to do so this season. February really has been treating him well. Not only does Olynyk have the double-doubles, but he is also producing in the plus/minus category. Before this month, Olynyk had just one game in which he had a plus/minus better than positive 10. He already has two such performances in just six games this month.
One of the main reasons that the rookie owns the best plus/minus in February among Celtics who have played at least 100 minutes is that he has posted three of his eight double-digit NBA scoring games in his last four contests. After starting six of his first 14 games with the C’s, he sprained his right ankle and missed the next 10 contests. Olynyk was able to bounce back and is now on pace for his best true shooting percentage month in exactly a year.
The question then becomes: will Olynyk hit the rookie wall? Will the man who is second to the green rebounding machine on the team in offensive rebounding percentage run out of gas soon? How much time did the early-season injury buy for the big man?
Olynyk has played 816 minutes this season after racking up a career-high 845 in his final collegiate season. Something that is intriguing about this Kelly quandary is the fact that he has already committed more fouls in 2013-14 than he did in the final two years that he played at Gonzaga. Olynyk is fouling more than six times per 36 minutes this season. Although he has fouled out just once as an NBA player, this is preventing him from having the ability to stay on the court for extended minutes.
However, there is one man who is championing Olynyk in Friday’s exhibition contest. Sullinger said that he thinks the rookie will be the MVP of the Rising Stars Challenge. Although Olynyk was the last man “picked” (in Shaquille “Vanna Black” O’Neal’s random draw), it will sure be interesting to see if the Canadian seven-footer continues his success.