Saturday, February 14, 2015

Causeway Street's Midseason Report Card: Jared Sullinger

Causeway Street's Joel, Dutra, and Josue have turned in their mid-term report cards for the Celtics. Each player's assessment will be released throughout the week, and throughout NBA All-Star Weekend.

Photo: Associated Press

14.4ppg, 8.1rpg, 2.4apg

Joel's Grade: B-

Jared Sullinger might be the most difficult to grade so far this season. He had an A- preseason and start to the regular season and then went into the worst shooting slump ever. He's always been a consistent starter in Brad Stevens' lineup, but when it has rained it has poured for poor Sully this year. The good news is Papa Sullinger gets in his son's ear and that usually does the trick for a good stretch. We all know what the third-year forward is capable of, and that's to be a double-double machine on almost any given night, as long as he keeps his big butt in the painted area, that's where he does his damage on both ends of the floor!

The frustrating thing about Sully's game is when he's 'hot' sort of speak froreason 3, he almost forgets he's a power forward and not a shooting guard! He's at his best when he mixes it up between the perimeter, mid-range and low-post game, which at times can be nearly unstoppable when he has all three going in one night. Let's not forget the fact he's the Celtics' best rebounder (offensive and defensive), so in this league that's always a good thing. Even his passing skills are underrated as of late.

Besides the fact Sullinger needs to learn back roads to the TD Garden so he'll never be late again and lose his starting job or be benched, he's been a big part of the last 12 games that has the C's 7-5. With Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green gone, Sully has to continue to polish his game inside and out plus burn some more calories. There is no reason why Sullinger can't be the focal point of Stevens' offense and become an all-star very soon.

There I said it... he's the future.

Dutra's Grade: B+

Jared Sullinger has easily been the most reliable player on the Celtics team this year. Yes, he's had his stretches where he has struggled offensively, and then there was 'late for practice-gate' but the truth is the Celtics will go as far as Jared Sullinger will take them.

Sully has steadily improved in his 3rd year in the NBA (Let's not forget that he also missed 3/4 of his rookie season with an injury so its safe to say this is his only his second full year in the league, which makes his improvement even more impressive). Since the departure of  Jeff Green and Rajon Rondo the leadership role has been put squarely on Sullinger's shoulders. He is now the go to guy on the offensive end in Brad Stevens offense. This year, he has really improved on the defensive end as well. For an undersized PF he is usually guarding bigger and stronger players and has done a much better job neutralizing them.

The one criticism I have and share with a lot of Celtics Fans is the three point shooting that Sully insist on making a big part of his game. I gotta give it to him, he is confident in his 3-point ability, but the results have been pretty brutal.  There are 12 power forwards in the league that have attempted over 150 three balls this year, and Jared Sullinger is dead last shooting 28.9 %. The only player in the league who has shot a worse percentage that shoots more threes in any position in the NBA is Nicolas Batum, who basically forgot how to play basketball this year. Sully is a beast down low and is developing a mid range game, but the inefficiency of shooting the three is not allowing the him to make the leap to the next level.

Josue's Grade: C

The only person preventing Jared Sullinger from being one of the best scoring power forwards in the league is Jared Sullinger. At the beginning of the season, Sullinger looked like he was going to have the break out season that C's fans have been anticipating since his rookie season. But unfortunately it hasn't happened and it's not going to. Sullinger's numbers this year are identical to last season's. Sure, he's averaging one more assist per game and a point more in the scoring column but Sully could be averaging a lot more points if he wasn't so afraid to battle in the paint. 

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't mind him shooting threes. I like that a player like Sullinger can find another way to score, nothing wrong with that. My only problem with him is how lazy he gets when those three-pointers start falling. Throughout December, Sullinger shot a season-best 40% from behind the arc but also averaged a season-low; 11 points per game. Sullinger does not put up a lot of points when he's sinking shots from outside, and he needs to step up and into the paint. Sullinger is averaging 14 attempts per game, a number that hasn't gone up since Jeff Green was traded. Why not, Jared?

Sully has an advantage over opposing power forwards. Because he's a threat from behind the arc guys have to go out of their comfort zone and defend him, this is when Jared needs to start taking the ball to the hoop. He does it every now and then, but doesn't do it enough. Take more attempts. I'm being tough on the third-year forward because I know how talented he is, he shouldn't be afraid to take more inside shots. Sully can also be a good leader but showing up late to a game more than once is not a good look.

Last Wednesday, in a game where Jared went 1-2 from three, he still managed to score 17 points and spent a lot of time in the paint (15 rebounds) against the Hawks. This was proof that Sully can score the ball without relying on his threes and can grab a lot of boards when he's more active in the paint. Also, Sullinger made a key play late in fourth when he decided to take Al Horford to the hoop instead of settling for the three-pointer. It was a move that Horford wasn't anticipating. That shot was crucial for the C's, in what was probably the biggest win of the season. Sully was also encouraging his teammates by telling them the C's were going to win the game, despite the fact the Hawks were winning by 13 points.

Just keep on doing that, Sully. Score in the paint, battle for those boards while you're there and be a good leader. You're a top 15 scorer among power forwards in the league, with potential to crack the top 10 or higher.


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