Boston’s Jared Sullinger coming into his own in Second Year

jared-sullinger-boston-celticsJared 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.

jared-sullinger-boston-celtics-1Following 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.

Evaluating the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets Trade

kevin-garnett-paul-pierceWe’re now over halfway through the 2013-2014 NBA season and there’s been quite a bit of time to analyze the Boston Celtics/Brooklyn Nets summer trade. As you may recall, Brooklyn practically sold their future by giving up three first round picks, and they dumped some veterans with large contracts. In return, the Nets got three players in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry, whom they thought would put them among the league’s elite.

So who’s the clear winner in this deal? Before we provide a clear-cut answer to this question, let’s take a more in-depth look at what exactly each team has gotten out of the trade thus far.

Boston Celtics

Rather than try and make another run at a low playoff seed with aging superstars, Danny Ainge chose to start from scratch by getting rid of Pierce and Garnett. In doing so, he virtually guaranteed that Boston would be bad and that’s exactly what has happened, with the Celtics sitting at 15-32 and tied with the Philadelphia 76ers for last in the Atlantic Division.

But being bad this year isn’t such a terrible thing. After all, the 2014 NBA Draft is loaded with talent, and if Boston can grab a top-5 pick, it’d be huge. Speaking of the draft, this team will also be getting three extra first-round picks in the future, which is immensely helpful to the rebuilding effort.

The major downside on Boston’s part is that they had to absorb Gerald Wallace’s contract, which will see the overpaid forward get another $30 million. It’s not all bad, though, because they were able to dump Jason Terry’s $10 million contract on Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Nets

paul-pierce-1As we discussed in the beginning, the Nets made this trade in order to compete with the East’s top teams like Indiana and Miami. And they paid a heavy price for getting Piece and Garnett by giving up a lot of draft picks. So far, their reward is a 20-23 record, the current seventh seed, and a couple of solid starters. Not exactly what you give up your draft future for…

Piece is averaging 13.3 PPG on just 41.3% shooting. He’s also averaging 3.1 APG, but turning the ball over 2.4 times per game too. Garnett hasn’t exactly been a godsend either, scoring 6.9 PPG on 42% shooting. However, he has done some good work on the boards, averaging 6.9 RPG. Jason Terry has been a virtual non-factor, scoring 4.4 PPG and only hitting 37.4% of his shots from the field.

If this team was built to win a championship, something needs to change quickly. The Nets have already taken a huge hit with Brook Lopez sidelined for the remainder of the season with a broken foot. And if the playoffs were to start today, they wouldn’t even have first-found home court advantage.

The Trade Winner?

Neither team has escaped with an A+ from this trade. Of course, it’s still pretty early to tell how both teams will make out from the deal in the long-term. Boston is a very bad team right now, and how all of their draft picks pan out won’t be determined until after 2016. New Jersey is currently the seventh seed and could very well move up in the standings.

But if we have to pick a winner now, it’s definitely Boston. They’re set up well for the future with players like Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green, Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger. And they’ll likely add more promising young players over the next few years.