Not even half way into the preseason, Celtics Nation is already asking whether Jared Sullinger should start and have Brandon Bass come off the bench. It’s a legitimate question. Sullinger has played more like a veteran than a rookie in the first two games of the very young preseason. I think we’re over-hyping Sullinger’s performances and forgetting how important Brandon Bass is to the team. So after being intrigued by the question, here’s my take on who should start at power forward.
Brandon Bass was originally brought in to be the backup power forward to Kevin Garnett, but injuries early on in the season gave Bass the opportunity to start for the Celtics. He was a pleasant surprise, especially since he never had a starting role before. Confidently and prepared, Bass contributed a lot offensively and defensively which wasn’t really expected. His defense, which wasn’t suppose to be that good, improved dramatically over the season, which made him even more important to the team and he was really the Celtics last option at power forward due to all the injuries.
If Bass were to come off the bench, he’d be part of a very scary trio, consisting of Jason Terry and Jeff Green. Those three players could start on majority of teams in the NBA, and the thought of having that much offensive fire power off the bench should concern any opponent of theirs. Bass coming off the bench also allows Jeff Green to play at small forward full-time. Seeing what he did in Milan and Istanbul, Green is better suited for the small forward position in my opinion, and with Bass at the four, the Celtics would have a very versatile second unit.
Jared Sullinger has no doubt impressed many Celtics fans in the two games overseas. He’s rebounding not only on defense, but on offense as well. Sullinger can put up points by going up after an offensive rebound, or being setup by Rajon Rondo. If Doc Rivers wants offense in the starting lineup, Sullinger may be the way to go, but defensively, the answer would be different.
There were a few times that I had noticed during the game in Milan that he was late rotating to his man off screens. As much as Doc has praised Sullinger’s work on offense, defense always comes first when playing for the Celtics. I hate continuously comparing him to Glen Davis, but they play a very similar game. While Sullinger is a better offensive player, and that alone could get him a starting job, defensively he’s making mistakes that will eventually drive Doc Rivers insane during the season. Of course this is a very minor issue, and his offensive game and rebounding over-shadows his flaws, it will still be something to look out for.
Personally, I’d prefer Sullinger coming off the bench in his first year. Even though he doesn’t act or carry himself like one, he’s still a rookie and has a lot to learn before being awarded a starting job. If he stays consistent throughout the season, improves on skills, and gets better on defense, then I see the starting job up for grabs.
The bottom line, it’s only been two preseason games. Remember, Sullinger wasn’t playing against centers and power forwards who are currently in the NBA. It was encouraging to see him play so well, but I’d like to see these types of performances in the regular season versus established players before I begin to question whether he should start instead of Brandon Bass. As I’ve said before, he was the steal in the draft, a top 10 talent, and he could probably start for the lottery teams that decided to take a pass on him.
One thing is for sure, the Celtics potentially have a good player who in a year or two could find himself starting for this team. But for the time being, Boston has a young rookie who doesn’t need much lecturing and could become a vital part for the Celtics later on in the season.