As we transition from the regular season to our draft coverage, we will first take a look back at 2013-14, grading each player’s performance. These grades are a compilation of four writers: Brian Robb, Michael Pina, Adam Lowenstein and Tom Westerholm.
That time Sully scored 19 points in the fourth quarter because he briefly morphed into heavyweight Kyle Korver.
I expect Sully back more than I expect him to be gone, but if the Celtics do put together some kind of blockbuster trade in the offseason, he’s the most likely centerpiece.
Sullinger expanded his range, shooting nearly nine percent better from 16-23 feet (.456) and…sort of developed a 3-pointer (more on that later). He averaged 17.3 points and 10.6 rebounds per 36 minutes — a very respectable number, especially since Stevens started Kris Humphries and Brandon Bass over him for much of the season. Sully’s lineups with Kelly Olynyk were fun offensively, even if they were a nightmare defensively. His PER rose from 13.4 to 16.5 — above the league average of 15.0.
If his full ceiling is realized, Sullinger’s 2013-14 season gave Celtics fans reason to hope that he might see an All-Star game or two.
Stevens and the Celtics gave Sullinger the green light to pull from 3-point range with varying results, and by “varying” I mean “it worked basically once or twice.” Sully finished the season shooting about 27 percent from behind the arc, which just isn’t good enough to justify going forward. Although he was decent around the basket (.599), he got inexplicably atrocious from 10-16 feet (.348), which is too bad since he fell in love with the turn-around jumper out of the post. Sully’s bad 3-point percentage makes the 10-16 foot range crucial — if he can’t hit 3-pointers, having a mid-range face-up game would give him a big advantage.
Sullinger didn’t show any lingering effects of his back injury from last season, but his conditioning wasn’t what it could have been as a result. That’s not his fault, but it’s something to keep an eye on.
We started this season with high expectations, and although Sullinger didn’t fully reach those expectations, he gave us reason to hope he might someday. He’s by no means Kevin Love-lite yet, but if he can average 18-20 points per game and double-digit rebounds with 3-point range in the future, he’ll be close enough to be very valuable.
We’ll hope to have a better idea what to expect after the 2014-15 season. If Sully can drop 15 pounds or so in the offseason, he’ll still have plenty of body to bang around under the rim while improving his foot speed and quickness — a crucial part of his PnR defense.
It will be fascinating to see what Stevens wants from Sully from behind the arc next year. Remember: It was Stevens who very publicly gave him the green light to keep jacking up treys. Will Sullinger continue to improve his range? Has he used up his green light? How good can he be with better conditioning?
A ton of questions follow Jared Sullinger into the offseason, but many of them aren’t discouraging questions at all.
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