Jared Sullinger: Breakout Candidate Next Season


It may seem odd hearing about Jared Sullinger having a breakout season for the Boston Celtics because he is already established as one of their best players.

Before his injury, Sullinger was the leading contributor on the team and was the player that they leaned on the most. He posted 13.3 pointer per game and 7.6 rebounds per game. The Celtics did not have another starter that averaged 13 points per game (of course, there was also Thomas who averaged 19 points coming off the bench).

A lot of people may think Sullinger is actually on his way out because of how well the Celtics did with him injured and that is amplified by all the issues surrounding his conditioning.

Apr 26, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jared Sullinger (7) reacts after being called for a foul during the second half in game four of the first round of the NBA Playoffs against the Cleveland Cavaliers at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Fortunately, that puts Sullinger right where he wants to be. Sullinger came out and said “Everyone has questioned me before – said I’m not the most athletic, not this guy, not that guy – -and every level I’ve proved them wrong.” Sullinger has long been playing with a chip on his shoulder and its only getting bigger this season.

Sullinger is determined enough to put in the necessary work to ensure that the Celtics can depend on him and that he can help bring them back to contention.

Sullinger is in a great spot and situation on the Celtics now. Sullinger will not be overwhelmed by a lot of pressure. The Celtics play such great, team oriented ball that he will never have to carry the team on his back.

Throw in that the Celtics were playing great with Sullinger sidelined and Sullinger should be thinking he is set up for success with a great opportunity to make the Celtics a better team. He should not hurt them in any phases and should at least be an offensive upgrade over any other PF on the team that played when they were making their playoff push.

Sullinger will definitely not be a go to player that will carry the Celtics to the championship, but he can be a phenomenal second or third option.

Giving Sullinger a full season with Stevens and a little more stability on his roster will also go a long ways. The Celtics have been in a major rebuilding phase and Danny Ainge had countless players coming in and out last season.

Jan 14, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens talks with forward center Jared Sullinger (7) during the second quarter against the Atlanta Hawks at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The Celtics are going to continue to make roster changes but the hope is that, through free agency and the draft, Ainge will be able to give Stevens a solid core of a roster that can build up great chemistry and consistency from the beginning of the season, rather than after the trade deadline.

Giving Sullinger that stability will do wonders for him and there is no doubting he will have his opportunities on the team as he is a perfect big in Stevens’ system. The Celtics want their power forward or center to stretch the floor and Sullinger is a player that will have to be accounted for on the three point line.

Sullinger is also a young player who has done nothing but improve in the NBA. The statistics are a little construed because of the limitations of his being hurt last season but he still played in 58 games and started in 49 of them.

Sullinger saw a huge boost from his first to his second season and he still managed to improve from his second to his third despite his injuries. The most promising improvement for Sullinger is his shooting percentage. Sullinger has gone from 45.8% to 49.4% from the field and he did that shooting .4 more three pointers per game.

The increase is nothing of great significance but it is an indication that Sullinger can maintain his solid shooting in higher volume. 28.3% from three was as improvement over 26.9% but it is still not good enough. If Sullinger can get that up to around the mid 30s then he will become a nightmare for teams to defend.

Another area where Sullinger will have to be improved is his presence in the paint. Sullinger has always proven that he has the ability to score the ball but it is his defensive play that will elevate him to another level.

Apr 26, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) looks to pass the ball while Boston Celtics forward Jared Sullinger (7) defends during the second half in game four of the first round of the NBA Playoffs. at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Celtics struggled to rebound and to defend the paint and Sullinger never made significant enough of a difference in that area.

If Sullinger works on his conditioning that should translate into his defensive game. If his overall athleticism and movement is improved then he will be a lot more intimidating in the paint.

Sullinger will not necessarily want to slim down as his size can be very advantageous in the post. Sullinger needs to optimize his size because the combination of his dynamic ability to score the ball with a player of his size and potential stature will go a long way in bringing the Celtics back to contention.

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