Jared Sullinger was a great player at Ohio State, but back problems caused him to slip in the 2012 draft. He was given the dreaded red flag because of his back, but that didn’t stop the Celtics from drafting him with the 21st pick. He played in only 45 games last season (19.8 minutes per game), but he showed promise when he was on the court.
Now, the Celtics are rebuilding, so he is getting his opportunity. Sullinger is averaging 14.5 points and 7.3 rebounds in 27.2 minutes per game for the Celtics–who lead the Atlantic Division. He has shown that he has a little bit of versatility on offense, and has even shown some range. Now, he isn’t doing great from the outside, shooting 31 percent from beyond the arc, but he has shown that it could be something he can add later on.
The Celtics got crushed by the Pacers on Sunday night, but Roy Hibbert saw something in Sullinger:
Roy Hibbert just told me Jared Sullinger could be "the Kevin Love of the East" if he keeps working. Tune into Celtics Post Game Live to see!
— Abby Chin (@tvabby) December 23, 2013
Now, Sullinger finished with just six points on 3 of 9 shooting, so he couldn’t have been referencing this game, but it shows that players have noticed his improved play. I think using Kevin Love is a little bit of a stretch, as Love is one of the top seven or eight players in the league.
You may be calling Hibbert crazy, but when you look at the numbers, he may have a point. When you look at Kevin Love’s first two seasons, they match up similarly to Sullinger’s.
Kevin Love Rookie Season: 11.1 points, 9 rebounds, 45 percent from the field, 10 percent from three-point range
Jared Sullinger Rookie Season: 6 points, 6 rebounds, 49 percent from the field, 20 percent from three-point range
Kevin Love Second Season: 14 points, 11 rebounds, 45 percent from the field, 33 percent from three-point range
Jared Sullinger Second Season (so far): 14.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 47 percent from the field, 31 percent from three-point range
Now, I’m not saying Sullinger is Kevin Love, but it seems as if he is on the right track. Love is averaging 25.2 points and 13.7 rebounds per game this season, while shooting 38 percent from three-point range. If Sullinger can get anywhere near that one day, then he will be a star for the Celtics.
It’s important to remember that Sullinger is doing this on a team that is not very good, so these number could be a little misleading. Still, that’s a huge compliment to receive.