Up until a few weeks prior to draft night, Jared Sullinger was highly regarded as a top ten draft pick, and that his future as an NBA player would be successful. Then word from multiple league sources reported that Sullinger had bulging disks in his back, and all of a sudden he began to slip down the draft board.
Is this injury so significant that teams were afraid to even draft him? If we look at his skills alone, Sullinger should have been picked up earlier in the draft. His upside completely outweighs the chances of his back hampering him throughout his career.
Right now, I’d like to say that the twenty teams who picked ahead of the Celtics, may regret not taking Sullinger. Aside from his apparent back problems, there really isn’t anything about his game that would make me question whether he is ready to play in the NBA. So let’s take a look at what he can do, and how he’ll be able to step right in and make a huge impact in his first season.
During the NBA summer league, Sullinger was a rebounding machine, along with good production from the post. I see this translating over when playing against the veterans. If he learns to use his size, he’ll be able to back down defenders, and box out on rebounds. He also can make the 18 foot jump shot, which if he can add that into his repertoire and can make it consistently, he could become a lethal weapon coming off the bench.
Defensively, I think his game could use some work, but if he listens to Kevin Garnett and gains his trust, he’s going to have a great mentor to learn from. All Sullinger needs to do on defense is grab rebounds, and just play good enough defense to keep his man from having a field day. Playing next to Kevin Garnett will help him in game time situations. Just look at how Brandon Bass’ defense improved throughout the season.
I’ve referred to Jared Sullinger as being the next Glen Davis, just by his game and the way his body is built. Even though there had been knocks on how he handled himself here, Davis was a great player and did an exceptional job when his number was called upon. If Sullinger’s ceiling of potential is anywhere near Glen Davis’, we got a steal in the draft in my opinion.
As long as the Celtics medical staff keep an eye on his back, and make sure he stays in shape, Sullinger will have a successful career in Boston. I don’t doubt his ability to play, and I truly believe that he’ll make an immediate impact. I think he’s going to surprise some people this season, and make the Celtics front office look like geniuses.