With the beginning of a new NBA season upon us, it’s that time of year where we can make big statements about what to expect this year. While many people talk of who will win the championship, Most Valuable Player, or who will make the playoffs, I’m turning focus to a third-year power forward that is just primed for a big season.
Jared Sullinger is ready. After showing glimpses of the player he can become in his rookie season, it was ended prematurely by a back injury. He established himself as a consistent starter and important offensive weapon in his second year, which was an achievement in itself. Coming off back surgery, he had a limited fitness base to begin with, and an injury to his shooting hand hampered his jump shot for the final months of the year.
Heading into 2014/15, Sully has been able to get into the best shape of his young NBA career. He has dropped a noticeable amount of weight, and has continued to fine-tune his outside game. Consider this: Sullinger connected on 50% of his attempts from 3-point range this preseason at an average of 3.8 shots per game.
Coupled with his soft touch at the rim, he averaged 14.9 points in just 26 minutes per contest over the past month. Then there’s his average of 10.9 boards per game despite limited minutes. In one game against the Nets, Sullinger produced a game of 21 points and 19 rebounds in just 29 minutes of action. In case those numbers aren’t enough, Sully has become smarter with his defensive work. He no longer commits ‘rookie fouls’ in games, and has adapted well to the pace of his opponents at that end of the floor.
Last season, Sullinger began to receive praise from his peers after he began to rebound the ball at an excellent rate and find a great balance between taking outside shots and knowing when to attack the paint. This resulted in some 20-20 games, while he also displayed an ability to make tough shots in close contests.
Yes, it’s only October, and we have 82 games ahead of us. However, I believe Sully is ready to become an emerging star in this league. I know I can’t wait to find out how well he goes over the next six months.
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- Michael (@mickyt34)