Breaking Down What Boston Celtics Can Expect from Kelly Olynyk

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Breaking Down What Boston Celtics Can Expect from Kelly Olynyk
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
What can Boston expect from it's newest rookie?

There has been plenty of time now to celebrate, digest, and accept the performance Boston Celtics rookie Kelly Olynyk put forth in the NBA’s summer league.

The question can now been raised: What, besides beautiful flowing locks, can Boston Celtics fans expect from young Mr. Olynyk.

That summer league show consisted of 18 points and 7.8 rebounds, while shooting 57.8 percent from the field over five games. Also of note, Olynyk's 4.2 fouls and 2.4 turnovers per game. He did hit 3-of-13 from beyond the arc, but only attempted 30 treys with Gonzaga, so it is safe to say that isn't a real part of his game.

Moving forward this summer, Olynyk developed a case of plantar fasciitis that held him out of workouts with the Canadian National Team.

That particular ailment has Celtics fans on edge, as it is the problem that plagued Kendrick Perkins for much of his Celtics tenure.

Following all the praise heaped on Jared Sullinger prematurely last season, there was legitimate reason for concern. Sullinger’s red flag on draft day, his back, wound up coming to fruition. The rookie played in only 45 games.

Boston could have used Sullinger in the playoffs, when the likes of Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin were confounding Boston’s interior offense. While Olynyk's plantar fasciitis isn't a previous condition, the cautious lens must still be used.

He comes with no definitive injury flag. That missed season at Gonzaga was due to a voluntary red shirt. The concern with Olynyk was his competition level in college. Sullinger stood out in the Big Ten, which is a vastly different thing than standing out in the Western Athletic Conference, where Olynyk’s Gonzaga Bulldogs played.

The idea of taking summer league performances with a grain of salt can be drilled into NBA fans heads. While it is important to temper the statistical results, there is actually quite a bit one can gleam from those exhibition games.

What Olynyk really showed at the summer league was a willingness to contribute, while also accepting coaching and learning. There wasn’t a play or possession he shied away from. As much as the overall points and rebounds should be viewed lightly, this was an important takeaway.

His offensive arsenal was on display from Game 1 on. That aesthetically pleasing jump shot seemed to travel over the rim and through the net no matter the starting position or arc of the ball. He had touch and was gutsy enough to show it.

The NBA is trending in a way where marginal big men almost have to have that in their game. Obviously you’ve seen it start with Kevin Garnett and Dirk Nowitzki, but looking at players like Kevin Love and Ersan Ilyasova, younger bigs are starting to have that shooting stroke.

Brandon Bass has been the mid-range standard bearer for the Celtics of late. However, Olynyk appears to have a better ability to get his own shot, where Bass' shots usually came off a pass. 

Keeping in mind that this is a supposedly weak class of rookies, they do appear to hold the No. 13 pick in high regard.

The NBA recently released their annual rookie survey, when they poll all the league’s newcomers with questions about their collective group.

Placing comfortably behind C.J. McCollum and Victor Oladipo, Boston’s rookie received 18.2 percent of the vote for predicted Rookie of the Year. However, when declaring who will have the best career, Olynyk flip-flops with McCollum, tying Oladipo for the most votes.

He was also tied with a few players for the most overlooked rookie, but left off of the list of best shooters and most athletic superlatives. 

Olynyk’s 65.2 percent shooting finished fifth in the NCAA, though those finishing above him weren’t as impressive. The Gonzaga star produced more attempts, while playing for a far superior program. He is also the only one in the top-20 on an NBA roster.

Per NBADraft.net, Olynyk’s NBA comparison was Spencer Hawes. After the dominant summer league performance, some may have rushed to compare his offensive skill-set to Dirk Nowitzki or Kevin McHale. 

However, judging from his early development through high school and into college, a more likely analogy can be made for 2011 No. 1 pick Anthony Davis.

See, Davis grew up a smaller kid. He played guard in high school, before experiencing a crazy growth-spurt between his sophomore and senior year. This is what has gifted Davis with such good footwork and athleticism at 6’10”. While this is most noticeable in Davis’ defense and timing, he did attempt 165 shots from 15-24 feet as a rookie, per NBA.com.

Olynyk, similarly, learned to play as a guard growing up. His stretching out came in the form of a seven-inch spurt during junior year. You can tell by his smooth range and work with the ball that Olynyk was once playing basketball in the body of a smaller person.

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Davis and Olynyk also experienced playing their high school ball in relative anonymity. In Chicago, the New Orleans Pelicans star played for a small school that specialized in academics, not athletics. He remained there throughout his career, only receiving national attention upon joining an elite summer team. There were bigger and better options for the talented youngster, but he didn’t budge.

Likewise, Olynyk never left South Kamloops Secondary School. He was very much an unknown until playing for those summer teams and, of course, Team Canada. These types of stories make for incredibly grounded young men who realize that hard work is the only way to get anywhere. 

Davis has been and will be successful in the NBA in part because of the way he came up. The same can and should be said for Olynyk.

The former’s rookie year finished at 13.5 points and 8.2 rebounds, on 51.6 percent shooting in an injury-shortened 64 games. Mind you, despite their similar growth cycles, much more was expected from Davis than will be of Olynyk.

While it would make sense for the Celtics to simply hope for 75-plus games played out of their lottery pick, they didn’t come by him easily. 

Boston dealt two 2014 second-round picks to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for moving up three spots in the draft. Sliding into the lottery also meant a bigger rookie contract, as Olynyk will make nearly $2 million next season.

President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge may be trying to temper expectations, but there was something about Olynyk that forced his hand to be sure no other team swiped him. 

Because of that, it is hard not to expect at least a little flash and substance during his rookie year.


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