7 Reasons Jared Sullinger Should Start over Brandon Bass for Boston Celtics
For the Boston Celtics, the past couple years have been about the team's past. This year must be the beginning of the team's future.
A large part of that future appears to rest on the shoulders of rookie big man Jared Sullinger.
With the No. 21 pick of June's draft, Boston grabbed the Ohio State product to play power forward.
With Sullinger being labelled a lottery talent, it is not a stretch to say the Celtics got the steal of the draft. Should Sullinger's back hold up, he has the skill set to become a very good professional player.
The lingering question is about playing time. Where, when and how often should the Celtics utilize their first-round pick?
Sullinger's main competition for minutes will come from last year's starter Brandon Bass, as well as injury-returnees Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox.
While it seems like a stretch to some, there is no doubt that Sullinger must develop into the Celtics starter this season.
Rebounding, Rebounding, Rebounding
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The most obvious argument for starting the rookie power forward is rebounding.
Jared Sullinger possesses a rebounding skill set that is currently absent from the Boston Celtics.
The residents of TD Garden were, to put it kindly, atrocious on the glass last season. Deservedly so, they finished last in the NBA in rebounds per game, grabbing .2 less a night than the seven-win Charlotte Bobcats.
Averaging 38.8 rebounds is not going to cut it, especially in the postseason were every possession is so crucial. The Celtics gave away so many extra possessions in last season's playoffs, it was a wonder they kept advancing.
The causing factor of this trouble was weakness in the middle.
Boston started two perimeter players in the frontcourt in Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass. Both players are jump shooters, which immediately decreases the likelihood of any offensive rebounds.
Piling on top of that is their lack of physicality.
Garnett's age and durability have affected him on the glass in a big way. Bass has just never been the physically intimidating inside presence the Celtics crave.
And More Rebounding
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Sullinger has the body and physically advanced game to be a difference-maker on the glass.
He averaged more than 10 rebounds per game as a freshman at Ohio State, and 9.2 per game as a sophomore. He grabbed double-digit boards 17 times last season, including 11 apiece in three NCAA tournament games.
Sullinger averaged 8.6 rebounds per game in the NBA Summer League. The NBA will pose bigger and stronger interior threats; however, it appears like Sullinger isn't the type to back down.
At 6'9" and 260 pounds, he has the NBA-caliber body that is necessary to box out and get rebounds at the highest level. More importantly, it gives him a small size advantage over Brandon Bass. However, more so than just the size, it is a difference in style that makes Sullinger the better choice.
Throughout the entire regular season, Bass tallied double-digit boards just eight times last season (once in the playoffs). With Sullinger, there is always the threat that he can break that barrier.
In cases where the Celtics needed a stop last season, again and again the opposition got more than one attempt at a shot. Sullinger gives Boston a better chance at limiting opposing possessions.
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Given their rebounding woes, it should also come as no surprise that Boston was unable to score in the paint last season.
The Celtics finished second-to-last in the NBA in points in the paint, averaging just 35.1 per game. Miami, the team that knocked them out of the playoffs, averaged more than 43 per game. Boston was just one spot higher than New Jersey.
Not to sound like a broken record, but this is again caused by the perimeter style of the Celtics big men. Offensively, Garnett and Bass live on midrange jumpers. Bass from the elbow is money, while Garnett thrives on the extended elbow.
While there is some value to playing this way, a mixture is always helpful. At a certain point you have to be able to score in the low post. Outside of Garnett's postseason display, the Celtics were unable to do this as a whole.
One of the most intriguing things about Sullinger is his low-post game. He is slightly reminiscent of a young Al Jefferson.
While the size of Jefferson isn't there, the raw talent and ability to score in traffic is uncanny. As a starter, Sullinger gives Boston a much more dangerous and versatile half-court game.
New Big Men in the Atlantic
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The Atlantic Division may wind up being the toughest in the NBA next season. A lot of that has to do with the recent influx of talented bigs.
Andrew Bynum of Philadelphia and Jonas Valanciunas of Toronto will join Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire of New York and Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez of Brooklyn in challenging the Celtics for the Atlantic Division crown.
Bynum, Stoudemire and Lopez represent three of the most talented offensive big men in the NBA. While Brandon Bass' defense last season was passable, it will not continue to be enough for Boston to win.
Bass is slow on his feet and struggles with switches onto bigger players. His biggest weakness is an inability to use his size. That is not a problem for Sullinger.
He is able to use his size and play bigger than he actually is. Thanks to his wide base, he is more prepared to stay in front of a Bynum-caliber big. This is crucial in the starting lineup because Kevin Garnett often prefers to revert to his power forward role.
The main argument is that Sullinger can help Garnett handle these talented offensive weapons better than Bass could last season.
Myth of Doc Rivers and Rookies
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A continuing argument against the idea of Jared Sullinger earning the starting role is that Doc Rivers doesn't play rookies.
I call bogus on this myth.
Rivers may not have played the Celtics' recent rookies a whole lot, but that is simply a result of their skill level. If there is a need and a rookie can fill it, Doc will use the player.
He is not in the business of letting talent sit on the bench. In Rajon Rondo's rookie season, he averaged 23.5 minutes per game and started 25 games. Last season, essentially Avery Bradley's rookie year, he started 28 games.
If you are good enough to play, Rivers will get you minutes. Because Boston has been so good the past five years, its draft picks have been later in the first round. That equates to less talent; however, when a player comes along who can give the Celtics something at the NBA level right away, they will play.
Sullinger may be the most talented draft pick the Celtics have made since Rondo. Rookie or not, he could also be the most talented big man on this roster not named Kevin Garnett.
Rivers understands this and knows better than anyone what his team's weaknesses were last season. If he believes Sullinger can help them, which I believe he can, then he'll earn that starting role.
Rising in Big Games
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It isn't really talked about a whole lot, but Ohio State as a whole really wasn't all that great the last two seasons. Sullinger guided his team to back-to-back NCAA tourney bids.
As a freshman, he led the Buckeyes in points and rebounds, shooting 54 percent from the field. In the tournament, he led them to the Sweet 16. In the two-point loss to Kentucky, Sullinger posted 21 points and 16 rebounds.
As a sophomore, Sullinger took Ohio State to the Final Four. Once again, they lost by two points, this time to Kansas. He averaged 17 points and nine rebounds in the tournament and posted a double-double in the loss.
Brandon Bass, on the other hand, disappeared for the majority of the Celtics postseason run last year. It was quite troublesome until he broke out in a game against Philadelphia.
For the majority of Boston's run, it felt as though he was just floating around, having little impact. He deserves some credit for amassing a decent stat line, but it never felt like he was forcing the issue.
When it comes to postseason play, I want my starters to dominate or fail trying. Boston's stars are fading now, and role players need to become stars or get out of the way.
Sullinger's ceiling, particularly as an impact player in big games, is considerably higher than Bass'.
He Gets It
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The most refreshing thing so far about Jared Sullinger is that he appears to "get it." He appears genuinely appreciative of where he is right now.
Everything he has said and done since being taken by Boston at No. 21 overall has been emblematic of a young man who understands how privileged he truly is.
He realizes the historical significance of the franchise he is with and is thrilled to wear that jersey. Nothing symbolized this more than his interview with ESPN's Greg Payne
If you consider me landing to the Boston Celtics a drop, then I'd do it all over again, without a hesitation.
While this is nothing against Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger is the type of player I want to see both on and off the court. Seeing a humble rookie in the NBA is sometimes rare, but it is always satisfying.
Sullinger has come to Boston to fill holes immediately. Once he has done that and prove he can rebound and score in the paint, the next step is taking over the starting role.