Jared Sullinger is Desirable Again


It started after Jared Sullinger was placed back into the starting lineup. Writers, experts, and more importantly Brad Stevens, noticed that Sullinger was performing well and needed more minutes to influence games. The Celtics’ season is now 18 games old, and it looks as if Sullinger might be the team’s best overall player this season. Of course Avery Bradley‘s recent emergence might change that line of thinking, but before Smart’s injury Sullinger had been the team’s best performer. I would joke around with a few people who report on the team, that Sullinger has become more of an asset than Derrick Rose to start the season (I wouldn’t go that far now, but to start the season I believed it). Some would laugh, but after thinking it out, maybe Sullinger’s trade value has risen back to what people thought it could be.

When looking at his numbers this season, Sullinger looks promising. Some might disagree since he’s averaging less points per game this season than his last two seasons (13 vs. 10). However, he’s averaging a career best in rebounds, steals, assists, and blocks in the first 18 games this season. Clearly he’s rebounding and passing the ball better, which makes other teams ponder if Sullinger can impact their team in the future. So while traditional statistics are showing a huge improvement, it’s even better when you go deeper with his production.

Jared Sullinger has been one of the best players on the team when they win games. Does that make him more important than any other player on the roster? Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The center has a net rating of 5.3 this season which isn’t the greatest, but at least it’s a positive rating. Meaning that his offensive rating is higher than his defensive rating (meaning his contributing more than he’s hurting the team). However, it’s during the Celtics’ wins where Sullinger truly shows his worth. During wins, Sullinger has a net rating of 18.7 and has a PIE number of 18.5. Those are the kind of numbers made by someone who makes an impact on the floor. I wouldn’t say superstar, but it’s impressive seeing how much he contributes during the team’s 10 wins. That should paint a clear enough picture that Sullinger needs to be involved to win games.

Not to be outdone, he also has a rebound percentage of a little over 20 percent, which isn’t a surprise due to how much he’s been eating on the boards. All season he’s been the best rebounder on the team, and it’s been like that since he was drafted. Boston.com’s Brain Robb has broken it down as to how well Sullinger has been rebounding this season in particular. Not only is Sullinger averaging more rebounds with less minutes, but his rebound percentage (stated earlier) puts him in the top-ten of that category (which blew my mind). It’s the IQ Sullinger has when it deals with him positioning his body, and how well his boxes out to grab boards.

What really has changed this season is Sullinger’s shooting. He’s shooting a respectable 34 percent from three-point range. I recall when the team was experimenting with him shooting on the perimeter, and it looked disastrous at the start. Still the team kept the faith, and now Sullinger has become a threat on the outside. Stretch fours and stretch fives are all the rage in the NBA, and Sullinger is now a viable option to help out with spacing and scoring from the outside. This transformation has been remarkable and now there should be a huge market interested in the former Buckeye.

When the team had a chance to extend Sullinger back in Nov., his agent made a play stating that he wasn’t accepting anything less than a max-contract. Sullinger and his agent are banking that he can revive his market, and cash in during free agency. It is the best time to use that strategy with the cap rising next season. If Sullinger can continue how he’s been playing, he will be rewarded heavily. Do I think he’ll get a max-contract? Not really. But if Tristan Thompson can get a five-year $82 million contract, then Sullinger should be feel pretty confident on what he can acquire.

I am predicting that Sullinger will cash in when he becomes a restricted free agent. Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

So what could the market be for Sullinger? Right now I think it’s become as strong as some Celtics fans believed it was when he was a rookie. Just now a rumor has floated around about Joakim Noah on the trading block. If a player with a resume like Noah is available, I can only imagine what the market would be with a younger forward (Sullinger is only 23-years-old). Now could be the best time to try and find a “dance partner” to move the former Buckeye. I don’t think the Celtics should ask for the moon (like a high first-round draft pick), but I do think Sullinger could bring in a valuable veteran in return.

Maybe someone on an expiring contract, or be the lynchpin in trading for a major player in the league. After all that’s the strategy the team used to trade for Kevin Garnett (for Al Jefferson). There is always a chance that Sullinger could bring in that kind of talent due to his production this season, but I’m not holding my breath. Simply due to his size, weight, and injury history. This season could change that narrative, but it falls on Sullinger, not the Celtics. If nothing seems to be worth the trouble of trading him away, then the team can just not re-sign him.

The center’s trade market has to be on the rise as this season progresses. Sullinger has been performing well this season when it comes to shooting from the outside and rebounding. Has Sullinger done enough to make himself untradeable? Not in the slightest, because I do not believe he is in the long-term picture to bring Boston to a title. If he received an extension then that view would change, but it might be the best time to trade him now before the team has to make a serious offer. While Sullinger will be a restricted free agent, it would be better to get something in return for him then using cap space to keep him. There are more important players that the Celtics should be focused on acquiring, and sadly Sullinger isn’t one of them.

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*All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com/Stats

C.J Maffris is a writer for Hardwoodhoudini.com. He wishes the Celtics could force unfair trades like he does on 2K. Feel free to debate with him on Twitter @SeaJayMaffris