Earlier this season, Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens indicated that would like to see as many of his younger players spend time working on their game in the NBA’s summer league over the upcoming offseason. Jared Sullinger still does not know whether he will be playing the summer league, but in an interview with the Boston Globe Sully seems to be pretty determined to spend his summer busting his tail no matter where he has to go in order to do it:
“Even if they tell me I’m not playing summer league, I’ll go down there and practice. There’s other ways to be active going into summer. On top of that, you go against guys, you get to learn a little bit more about basketball . . . We’ll see. It will be a totally different Jared Sullinger coming back next year.
A totally different Jared Sullinger? Hmmm – not sure I want him to be totally different, but there are definitely some things he can work on. His conditioning. His mid-range J. Never again taking a three-point shot.
Oh no – you’re not one of those Celtics fans who wants Sully to take MORE three-point shots attempts, are you? Hoping he’ll become a stretch four with that kind of range? Seriously?
Take a look at Sully’s shot chart for the season so far:
For the season, Sully is connecting on just 26.5% of his tries from behind the arc, a number that people like CSNNE color commentator Tommy Heinsohn ignore when Sully goes 4-for-5 from deep as he did Saturday night against the Detroit Pistons when he Tweeted this nonsense:
Sullinger hits his second three of the game: “I’m telling ya, that’s going to be a weapon for that kid!”
— Tommy Heinsohn (@CSNTommy) April 5, 2014
Really, Tommy Gun? When a player is that atrocious from behind the arc, I have no idea why he is allowed to hoist right around 3 attempts per game, but I can live with just those three attempts. Problem is, Sully went from hardly ever attempting three pointers (only 2.2% of all his field goal attempts in 2012-2013 were 3-pointers) to attempting a 3-ball in a almost 1 out of every 4 shots he takes (23%).
The thought of Sully trying to become a more proficient three-point shooter, however, terrifies me – not because it couldn’t happen, but because the improvement would be marginal, and would siphon attention away from the other areas of his game that he also needs to work on, areas that are far more important to Sully and the Boston Celtics.
Conditioning is clearly something that is at the top of Sully’s list – at 6’9″ and 280 lbs. he could stand to turn some, ah, excess storage into muscle and become a bit quicker, since he has trouble scoring when matched up against taller, lankier opponents – but his short- and mid-range game need a ton of work, as well. Check out that nice red arc that represents Sully’s mid-range game: he’s shooting only 38 for 119 , 32%, well below the league average at that range. His numbers improve once he hits mid-long range, but his short to mid range game still needs so much work. For someone who struggles against players with length, being able to consistently knock down 10′ and 15′ shots, coupled with some increased agility and quickness, will make Sullinger a tough assignment for bigs and smaller players, as well.
All of which means Sully should virtually abandon the 3-point portion of his game. He still has too much work to do down low and in the mid-range game to be worrying about becoming a more reliable 3-point shooter. If Sully can become a reliable threat from 10′-18′ away from the basket, he will wind up stretching defenses and posing match-up problems for opposing coaches. Every second he wastes shooting threes this summer, however, only hurts his game. I don’t want Jared Sullinger to come back a totally different player; I simply want him to come back a player who has (nearly) perfected his game. Leave the long-distance bombing to someone who has chance of connecting on 35-40%, Sully, and become the beast down low who can also step back and knock down some mid-range Js. Do that, and the Boston Celtics will be one step closer to raising championship banner number 18 to the rafters of TD Garden.