General manager Danny Ainge was smart not to extend Kelly Olynyk’s contract last summer. Now, it’s time for the Celtics to allow the “Clinic” to hit the free agent market with freedom.
They were there when the Gonzaga product exploded for 26 points on 10-of-14 shooting from the field in Boston’s first Game seven win in five seasons as the Celtics took down the Wizards in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
They were also present to watch Olynyk get eaten alive by Tristan Thompson in the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals as he posted just two points on 1-of-8 shooting in 24 minutes.
It’s been one heck of a ride to witness the enigmatic Olynyk evoke scalding jeers and riveting cheers alike from the TD Garden faithful. There is little doubt that despite his inconsistency, Olynyk has grown his game tremendously over the past few seasons. In 2015-16, Olynyk became a plus-40 percent three-point shooting threat for the first time in his career. This past season, he shot over 50 percent from the field, a career-best, while garnering two assists per game for the inaugural occasion.
Olynyk’s achilles heel remains his rebounding skills, as his effort on the boards is subpar and he is consistently out muscled for boards by opponents that do not hold a candle to him size-wise. However, there is a tremendous market in the NBA for bigs that can shoot the three-ball with regularity, making Olynyk a hot commodity once free agency hits on July first. A restricted free agent, Olynyk is due to fetch at least $10 million per season for his services, as reported by ESPN’s Nick Silva. However, this figure certainly seems low considering the fact that the Los Angeles Lakers shelled out $16 million per year over four seasons to Timofey Mozgov, a low-post centric center whose skill set is becoming extinct in the league.
Olynyk was a bargain for the Celtics at $3 million in 2016-17. Anything above $8 million for a player who cannot assist the team in a severe area of need, rebounding, is unjustifiable. Especially for a team that is expecting to compete for marquee free agents such as Gordon Hayward and Blake Griffin as the free agency sweepstakes begin. If Olynyk wishes to take a pay cut in order to remain with the only head coach he has ever played for, Brad Stevens, then general manager Danny Ainge could be coaxed into retaining him solely due to Stevens’ liking for the seven-footer.
However, do not expect the Celtics to relinquish an arm and a limb for someone of Olynyk’s stature who recorded a total rebound percentage of just 13 percent in 2016-17.