Jared Sullinger, a big player in many ways for the Celtics, has continued to deliver on the potential shown in his rookie year. It seems the back surgery everybody knew he would require has fixed the 21 year old, and has enabled him to play at an even higher level in his second season with Boston.
A shake-up of the starting five for the C’s has enabled Sullinger to slot in at the center position alongside Kelly Olynyk and Brandon Bass over the past 2 outings. It would be fair to say it was a well-deserved promotion for Sully, coming off repeated strong performances against the Rockets, and a career night against the Spurs.
Holding his own against the likes of Dwight Howard and then Tim Duncan, where a career-high 17 rebounds were pulled down along with 19 points, underlined the improvement in Sullinger’s back which has allowed him to use his big frame and play with physicality.
A. Sherrod Blakely noted the improvements in Sully’s back too
You know Sully’s back is doing ah-ite. Broke up lob pass to DH12. There’s no way Sully could have done that a year ago. #Celtics down 28-16.
— A. Sherrod Blakely (@SherrodbCSN) November 20, 2013
While Sullinger showed last season his ability to step-up and take charges on the defensive end ala Big Baby Davis, the level of physicality against his opponent has also been a notable development. Against the Pacers, Sully would not allow the 7’2” Roy Hibbert to gain a deep post position easily. This resulted in multiple offensive fouls being called on Hibbert, a great achievement by Sullinger when considering the sheer size of the man he was defending.
The use of the big body has also translated to the offensive side of his game. When posting up against his opponent, Sullinger continues to back his man down closer and closer to the basket, before pushing off one last time and allowing himself plenty of space to put up a quality shot around the rim.
Away from the post, his smooth stroke from mid-range and the free throw line allow Sullinger to score point totals in double figures consistently. In addition, the improvements on his 3-point shot over the offseason mean Sully must be respected outside, which also provides more room for his teammates to operate in. Celtics legend Tommy Heinsohn has repeatedly said Sullinger is a 20-point threat on any given night.
The games with higher point totals aren’t big surprises when you consider the talent Sully possesses, scoring consistently in double figure points so far this season. This included a career-best 26 point outing over the Trailblazers less than two weeks ago. Sullinger’s statistics for the year boast 12.5 points and 6.6 rebounds per contest to this point. However with more minutes, Sullinger’s rebound totals have increased significantly, often flirting with double figure rebounds in each contest.
While a recent rough patch has the Celtics on the wrong side of the win-loss column, continuous improvement from the promising Sullinger among other members of the team, still gives us fans something to get excited about.
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- Michael (@mickyt34)