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2014 NBA Draft: Comparing Jared Sullinger and Julius Randle

One of the most legitimate reasons fans were so disappointed when Boston fell to sixth in the NBA Draft Lottery is the available talent. Had the Celtics gotten a top-4 pick, they likely would have been able to fill a position of need simply by drafting Andrew Wiggins, Dante Exum or Jabari Parker. Instead, the best players likely to be available are fours who probably won’t be able to play center — Noah Vonleh, Aaron Gordon and Julius Randle.

Randle is an interesting prospect for Boston. Many aspects of his game appear to be similar to a player the Celtics already have in place — Jared Sullinger. After all, both had back-to-the-basket games and great advanced metrics in college, both are very strong but perhaps a little undersized, both are clearly power forwards who can’t defend the rim. So why would Boston take Randle with its sixth pick?

Before we continue, let’s run through some comparisons between the two.

Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 11.40.09 AMAs you can see, the numbers are strikingly similar, with Sully’s advanced college stats checking out a little higher than Randle’s. Randle may well end up being the better defender since his speed will give him options as the big defender in the PnR and his strength will cause problems for smaller players, but the difference probably isn’t significant enough to make a final decision over.

The biggest difference between the two is in Sullinger’s jumpshot. This season, Sully was an abysmal 27 percent from behind the arc on 2.8 attempts per game (3.7 per 36 minutes), but he can shoot from mid-range (45.6 percent on long two-pointers), which makes him a pick-and-pop threat.

But Randle has Sully beat in several aspects. First, he’s a much better ball-handler and passer. Both players finished with nearly identical turnover rates, but Randle can take his man off the dribble as well as score off the bounce in transition. He’s very left-hand dominant, but his combination of strength and athleticism serves his back-to-the-basket game well, and the speed will likely allow it translate to the NBA a little better than Sullinger’s. Randle doesn’t have Sully’s range (yet), but he very well might not need it initially.

Drafting Randle would make certainly Sully superfluous, however, so Boston would likely have to make a decision between the two. Part of that decision would be based on each player’s talent, obviously, but part also would be based on the package the Celtics could get in return. If Boston could get a very good player in return for Randle, the Cs might draft and deal him, even if they think he will eventually be the better player. But they’ll have to weigh the options carefully — Sullinger plus (Player X acquired in the Randle deal) vs. Randle and (Player X acquired in a deal for Sullinger). The better combination would be constantly in flux during trade negotiations, depending on the value of Player X, and it would be an extremely tricky situation, either way.

The good news: Boston would be keeping at least one big, bruising player (Tyler Lashbrook, in his excellent breakdown of Randle’s game over on SB Nation, correctly called Kentucky’s ex-power forward a “hoss”) capable of scoring and rebounding on both ends of the floor, and either way the Celtics would have a chance to get value back in return. If you believe (as I do) that players like Sullinger and Randle have a lot of value in today’s NBA, seeing the Celtics pick Randle and test the trade waters for both wouldn’t be bad draft night result at all.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.

  • hax

    I wonder if the Hornets would give us 9 & 24 for the 6th pick.
    Maybe even their 45th overall 2nd round pick, and us throwing them Bogans’ waivable contract or something.

    • swissflix

      Why would we want to do that?? Makes no sense at all.

      • hax

        Projected 6th pick area guys are mostly PF’s, we have plenty already.
        Projected 9th area guys can actually fill a need. And we’d probably draft the same guy we’d draft at 6.
        Then the 24th pick would give us another quality guy since it’s a deep draft.
        Could get a trio like Zach LaVine(SG), Cleanthony Early(SF), Clint Capela(C) and give us a chance to fill needs.
        Rondo-LaVine-Early-Olynyk-Capela would be a massively young & fast team, all first round talent. Assuming no major trades for stars occur.

        Feel free to disagree :) A million options available right now.

        • swissflix

          It’s simple: You draft talent, not position. So it does not matter if we
          already have a (decent) PF. It gives you assets for the future. Bass
          could be moved at the right time next season and thus give us a late
          first rounder maybe? That way we are left with Sully and Randle (if we
          get him). And if there is no Hump it’s not really plenty.
          there are only one or two real PF at the 6th pick available. Smart and
          Gordon (whom i don’t like with that pick) are guards/ wing players.

        • dasein

          Yeah, I’m liking the idea of trading 6 for 9 and 24 if Saric was going to be there. Saric is a top 5 talent by some accounts, who is sliding based on uncertainty about when he’d come to the NBA. If you can get a guy who might be as good as or better than the conventional options at 6, plus a shot at a cheap rotation player. The 9th pick would also be cheaper than the 6th, so there are potential wins on many fronts.

          Charlotte need talent more than anything. If they are high on Randle it could well work for them too.

    • JStokes1313

      It’s not a bad trade on paper – have them throw in a couple mil or something – but Charlotte needs shooters and I think they know they can get them right where they are

  • check12check

    to be fair, I don’t know a great deal about the players in the draft, so my opinion is limited. My thinking on this matter though is why take on a player who projects to do similar things to a player whom we have that has already proven he can do it? that’s like placing a $200 bet on the chance of winning 5 bucks. If he works out, we get almost nothing, but if we draft Randle, move sully, and Randle never figures out how to transition into the NBA (and a lot of guys have trouble with this. Especially bigs. plus, big guys usually take longer to develop when compared with other players, and Sully has shown he can make an impact from day one.) we just lost a very solid player.

    • Ping

      Fair point about the possibility of a bust, but it’s hard to think like that if you’re the C’s. They need as much talent as they can get, so they should look to simply take the best available player at 6 and figure the rest out later (assuming they keep the pick before making it).

      There’s a strong case to be made for Randle being the best prospect outside of 1-4, with a strong ceiling.

  • JStokes1313

    I’ve talked myself into this pick, but randle excites me the least of the guys in that range. The z-Bo comparison is a bit off, he lacks the arm length and the shooting ability. Vonleh can at least shoot the lights out for his position (read chad ford), and Gordon is growing on me (watch the draft xpress report on him), randle just seems the most redundant skill wise to what we have.

    • hax

      I like Vonleh but Olynyk had 24, 25, and 28 in the last three games of the season, once he got starters minutes. I don’t want anyone getting in his way to becoming Dirk 2.0

      • I like his game a lot, he impress me with his rebound, i thought he was a poor rebounding big man, but he rebounded the ball better than advertised.
        I just hope to see some improvment on the defenside side.
        Otherwise a lineup with him and sully will be tough to sustain.

  • Ping

    This post may not be the place to do it, but I have a little comparison for those of us here on CH. I give you Player A and B (stats per 40):

    A: 15.8 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 2.5 apg, 2.4 b+spg, 49.5 FG%, 20.4 PER, 5.4 WS
    B: 20.3 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.9 apg, 4.7 b+spg, 45.9 FG%, 28.4 PER, 6.7 WS

    Player A is Aaron Gordon, a popular mock choice for Boston’s #6. Player B is KJ McDaniels, SF Clemson. I understand Gordon is seen more as a 3/4 hybrid while McDaniels is a straight wing player, but their similarities are obvious. Both have their faults on O, yet found ways to produce. Their biggest similarity is their defense. Both are projected to be prolific NBA defenders, capable of locking down 1-4.

    My point is that I feel Gordon is a reach at 6 when McDaniels can potentially be had at 17. If you want a versatile defender, go with the one that scored more on a horrible Clemson offense while using 6 on Saric, Smart, Randle etc.

    • hax

      Nice comparison. :)
      McDaniels is early 2nd round in the mocks I’m seeing. Maybe late 1st round in others.

      Maybe the 76’ers will take Bogans for a 2nd rounder? :p

  • ita c’s fan

    hi guys, i’m an huge celtics fan from italy that follow you almost every day. really nice blog with a great writer e followers! I would ask you, what about Jusuf Nurkic? at #6 would be a wasted pick?

    • hax

      He’s projected as an early 2nd round pick in many mock drafts, so we would be reaching big time even with the 17th pick. If we trade for a 2nd round pick, or late 1st round, maybe though!

      • ita c’s fan

        I actually doubt he will drop in 2nd round even if a lot of mock project him there. If available at #17 he would be a great fit for boston. I’m a little concerned about our 6th pick, in this position the best prospects are PF (posotion well covered in our roster); if we can’t get Love with that, should we move it for multiple lower picks?

        • Ping

          You’re right about Nurkic. He’s been creeping into the lottery in a lot of mocks. #11 on DraftExpress to the Nuggets. He’s still very raw and the knock against him is inconsistency/discipline, but he has been a bull in Europe.

  • hax

    Celtics get: Noel, Webster
    76’ers get: Porter Jr.
    Wizards get: Green
    Celtics get: Frye, Lamb, Thabeet
    Thunder get: Gerald Green
    Suns get: Batum
    Trail Blazers get: Jeff Green, Bogans

  • Thomas Graham

    i would get rid of bass and draft randle and use him in the same fashion. were getting a younger talented proven scorer with a lot of upsize i think it would be nice to see sully and randle on the court together it would only make us better.

  • Thomas Graham

    would love to see them draft randle and pj hairston a deadly shooter or even a tj warren