Jared Sullinger’s professional basketball career got off to a rocky start the minute he was selected 21st overall in the 2012 NBA Draft. After all, this was a guy whom many predicted to be a top-5 lottery pick going into the summer of ’12. And there was good reason why since the bulky 6’9″ power forward led Ohio State to a 63-10 overall record and Final Four appearance during his two years there.
Unfortunately, Sullinger’s stock slipped considerably after he suffered through back issues during the Draft Combine in Chicago. He eventually fell to the Boston Celtics, who grabbed him in the latter half of the first round.
Wanting to prove the critics wrong in his rookie season, Sullinger showed flashes of brilliance, including a January-of-2013 game against the Toronto Raptors where he scored 25 points and grabbed 20 rebounds. This was the first 20-20 game by a Celtic since Kevin Garnett did it in 2007. But then disaster struck just two weeks later on February 1st, when it was announced that Sullinger would miss the rest of the season with a back injury.
This was obviously a huge setback and a harrowing reminder of the Draft Combine the year before. However, all of these reminders seem to have vanished now that Sullinger is showing his true potential in the 2013-14 season. For starters, he’s averaging 13.4 PPG and 8.1 RPG in a modest 27 minutes per contest. These numbers may not leap off the stat sheet at casual observers, but what he’s done over the past four games definitely does. In a stretch from Jan. 29th to Feb. 7th, 2014, Sullinger has averaged 23.8 PPG, 13.8 RPG and 1.25 BPG. What’s more is that the 21-year-old has led the rebuilding Celtics to a 3-1 mark over these past few games.
Following his fourth game during this impressive streak, where Sullinger scored a career-high 31 points and grabbed 16 boards against the Kings, his teammates were asked to weigh in on this emergence. Gerald Wallace said, “He’s one of the best offensive rebounders I’ve played with. And when is focus is on, he’s pretty good down on the block.”
What impresses Rajon Rondo about his teammate is the consistency. “The hardest thing in this league is to be consistent, and right now he’s been very consistent for us…so it’s not easy what he’s doing,” Rondo said.
Sullinger himself also commented with the following, “I just went out and just played my game. (I’ve) been doing it for the past couple games and just letting everything go, playing my game and just showing better body language, according to my father.”
As mentioned before, Sullinger has played well before. But a four-game stretch with double-doubles is new territory for the power forward. So should we expect a drop-off at some point? Not according to Celtics Insider A. Sherrod Blakely, who said the following:
The way that he’s going about doing it is really what’s impressing me. He’s not just relying on shots around the basket, he’s not just relying on jumpers. He’s mixing it up and that is what you want to see in a young, upcoming promising big like Jared Sulilnger – the ability to hurt teams in different ways.
One more testament to Jared Sullinger’s insane run over the past week-plus is that he’s currently playing with two injured hands. He’s got a dislocated finger on one hand and sprained ligaments in the other. So if he’s playing this well at age 21 with two injured hands, just imagine how good he’ll be for Boston in a few years as long as his back issues don’t return.