Ridiculous. Ludicrous. Blasphemous. Just flat out crazy. Call it what you may. Kevin Love is an All-Star. He played at an MVP caliber this past season, and is currently a member of the Olympic squad being compared to the 1992 Dream Team. So how dare such a bold statement be made about a player yet to log a single NBA minute?
Well it may not be as far-fetched as it initially appears. There are more than a few similarities between Love and Sullinger, and they date as far back as High School.
Love was an All-American for his Lake Oswego Lakers in Oregon. During a fabulous senior year, he averaged 34 points per game and 17 rebounds per game. That earned the forward a national ranking as the best player at his position, and sixth overall by scouting service Rivals.com. He was deemed the National Gatorade Player of the Year his final season in high school.
That is hard to compete with. So how does Sullinger stack up to such a prolific high school career? The eventual Ohio State Buckeye put up 24.5 ppg and 11.7 rpg his senior year. While more underwhelming than Love’s numbers, the fact Sullinger played against Ohio competition as opposed to Oregon for Love must be taken into account.
Sullinger would also win the McDonald’s All-American Game co-MVP. Similar to Love, all of those achievements led to a Rivals.com ranking as the best player at his position, and fifth overall in the country.
That’s just high school though. Plenty of guys have put up bizarre high school statistics, only to never be heard of several years later (Dajuan Wagner and his 100-point performance as an example).
Love was phenomenal his lone season at UCLA. He finished as the Bruin’s leading scorer and rebounder with 17.5 ppg and 10.7 rpg. Love led UCLA to the Final Four, where they lost to runner-up Memphis. He would be named first team All-American.
In contrast to Love, Sullinger played two collegiate seasons. His freshman year he put up comparable numbers to Love with 17.2 ppg and 10.2 rpg. In his final season at Ohio State, Sullinger would remain fairly consistent with a 17.5 ppg and 9.3 rpg year. He would also go on to be named a first team All-American member like Love. The Buckeyes reached the Final Four, and just as Love’s Bruins did, they lost to eventual runner-up Kansas.
After finishing their collegiate careers, both players entered the NBA draft process with numerous questions concerning their ability to transition into the NBA. Despite their long list of accolades on the court, both players suffered scrutiny for their athleticism and height.
At the NBA draft combine, Sullinger measured 6-foot-9 with shoes, right on par with Love’s 6-foot-9 and a half. Weighing in at 268 pounds, Sullinger did come in 13 pounds heavier than Love , but had a lower body fat percentage. Their body frames allow them to successfully carve out space in the post, particularly for rebounding, but their measurements coupled with a lack of athleticism are not seen as ideal for an NBA power forward
Scouts were worried with Love’s capability to score against quicker and longer athletes in the NBA . These are much of the same doubts Sullinger dealt with prior to the draft. Love’s skill-set was enough to make him a top five draft pick however. Many felt Sullinger would have also been a top five selection had he left after his freshman campaign in Columbus. Back issues would drop the forward to the 21st pick this draft, where commissioner Stern eventually called his name for the Boston Celtics
Now this is where the rest of this comparison remains to be seen. Love has been able to quiet the skeptics with his dominating play on the boards, and took his game to another level this year, averaging 26 ppg and 13.3 rpg. Sullinger is still only playing summer league games, but has been fairly impressive in the six he’s played.
Love was able to immediately step in and grow multiple facets to his game. Sullinger faces a different role his rookie season with the Celtics. He will be part of a team contending for the Larry O’Brien Trophy, something Love has not even come close to, and will be relied on to do the dirty work.
Much like Love, Sullinger will be tutored from one of the best power forwards to play this game. Love was coached by Kevin McHale to begin his career, and it is safe to assume Kevin Garnett will be spending plenty of hours after practice with the new rookie.
If Sullinger can continue to progress his outside shot, he’ll be better equipped to stretch defenses as Love has become accustomed to doing. Sullinger shot 40 percent this past year from behind the arc, five percentage points better than what the current Timberwolves’ star shot in college. Boston’s system lately has allowed shorter power forwards with outside range to flourish, as seen with Brandon Bass and Glen Davis.
The Celtics rookie has a plethora of skills, giving him the potential to reach Love status, but that’s not how things always play out. How off based will this article be in five years? Maybe Sullinger is just another Big Baby Davis, who knows? This could just be a personal love affair for Sullinger (pun intended).
If Sullinger’s rookie season ends like Davis’ did with a championship though, then fans will be in love, even if he doesn’t quite play like the real one.