NBA Draft 2012: Why Jared Sullinger Is the Next Kevin Love

Luis Batlle@lbatll1Contributor IJune 25, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - MARCH 31:  Jared Sullinger #0 of the Ohio State Buckeyes reacts after the Buckeyes lose to the Kansas Jayhawks 64-62 during the National Semifinal game of the 2012 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on March 31, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Heading into the 2012 NBA Draft, there is a plethora of uncertainty surrounding Jared Sullinger.

Similar to Kevin Love in his tenure with the UCLA Bruins, Sullinger is an undersized big man that has every bit of ability to become an All-Star at the next level. His scoring talent, will to win, and sixth sense for the basketball when coming off the glass are all enticing factors NBA teams must consider in his game.

Just how underrated is the talent? According to ESPN's Andy Katz, he was not even invited to the draft to watch it. Talk about a travesty.

The doubt with Sullinger is in both his lack of size and injured back. According to ESPN's Chad Ford, he has been medically red-flagged by NBA doctors because of the back injury. Sullinger, once projected as an inevitable lottery pick, carries major doubts in spite of his tremendous play on the court.

These are the three reasons why Sullinger's game and situation heading into the league is strikingly similar to that of Love's.

Impressive Scoring at the College Level

Much like NBA All-Star Love, Sullinger proved himself to be a productive scoring threat at the college level throughout his tenure with the Buckeyes.

The third-highest scorer in Ohio State history, Sullinger averaged 17.6 points and shot 51.9 percent from the field in his sophomore year with the team. He was able to produce such impressive numbers in spite of dealing with injury throughout a good portion of the season.

NEW ORLEANS, LA - MARCH 31:  Thomas Robinson #0 of the Kansas Jayhawks puts up a shot over Jared Sullinger #0 of the Ohio State Buckeyes during the National Semifinal game of the 2012 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship at the Mercedes-Benz Supe
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Love, like Sullinger, was also an impressive scorer in his days with the UCLA Bruins. In just one season with the team, Love posted 17.5 points per game and shot a whopping 55.9 percent in just under 30 minutes per contest.

Sullinger was a top-threat in the nation in the scoring department, and like Love could well translate this play to the next level.

Undersized Big Men Heading Into the NBA

Kevin Love, if anything at all, was proof that boasting size in the league is not what separates the good bigs from the greats. It is the ability to have a nose for the basketball on the glass that ultimately makes the difference.

Sullinger, 6'9'' and 265 pounds, approaches the game a lot like Love in this regard. He is able to out-rebound opponents despite being out-sized regularly in the paint on both ends. Sullinger averaged 9.3 rebounds per game his final college season, while Love averaged a solid 10.6 per contest.

Love, at 6'10'' when playing center at the college level, was also especially undersized for his position. Yet as he has been a force to reckon with in the league in this department, there is no question Sullinger can do just the same with his skill set.

So long as the back issue doesn't linger on, there is no question Sullinger will rebound the ball effectively in the league.

Knows How To Win Basketball Games

 

When scouting a talent, winning play may well be the biggest factor of all when push comes to shove.

Although the Minnesota Timberwolves have struggled mightily over the last couple of seasons, Love has helped his team to win games regularly when healthy. The team started the season an impressive 21-19 before dropping 21 of their next 26 games. At UCLA, he led his team to a 34-2 campaign that ended in the Final Four against Memphis. 

Sullinger, like Love, led his Buckeyes to a Final Four appearance his sophomore year. The team would lose to Kansas in the game after making the strong run. The Buckeyes were an impressive 31-8 and 13-5 in the Big Ten.

There is no question Sullinger will not only be able to produce the scoring and rebounding numbers, but is also an outright winner. If teams pass up on this big man they may not give up size and may get the production elsewhere, but it's safe to say his will to win is unmatched by most.