"He's just gotta keep working," Hibbert said. "He could be like the Kevin Love of the East. It's his second year. He got a back problem last year so it's gonna be a long process, but he could be a pretty good player in this league."
Quite the compliment. Or insult, depending how you feel about stretch forwards who aren't known for playing defense.
Let's go with compliment, since Love is a two-time All-Star and Hibbert wasn't growling in displeasure as he spoke.
Love and Sullinger are revered for doing similar things. Neither is known for playing above the rim, and both are lauded for their rebounding and scoring ability.
It will take time for Sullinger to catch Love, though, if it's even possible. The 25-year-old is putting up video game numbers this season, recording 25.9 points and 13.9 rebounds a night, statistics that easily topple Sully's 14.1 and 7.1.
But Sullinger is only a sophomore and just beginning his transition into the stretch 4 role. Love wasn't the point-totaling marksman he is today during his second season either.
Here's a look at how Sully's and Love's second-year crusades currently stack up, along with the latter's production this season:
|Player||MPG||FG%||3P%||PTS||REBS||ASTS||Off. Rtg.||Def. Rtg.||PER|
Looking at those numbers, it's not unrealistic to believe Sullinger has a similar ceiling.
Back problems and sizing issues—Sully is 6'9"—could prohibit Boston's forward from duplicating Love's rebounding statistics, but emerging as a 20-point, eight-rebound and four-assist gamer shouldn't be out of the question. A nightly double-double isn't impossible either, since he's grabbing close to 10 rebounds per 36 minutes anyway.
Love himself believes it could happen, according to The Boston Globe's Baxter Holmes:
He can shoot the ball, he has a soft touch, he’s capable, as far as rebounding the basketball goes. He’s very young, so he has a lot of chances to improve.
My advice to him would be, don’t wait until the summer. Start improving now, because you always have every day to improve and he seems to be getting better and better.
Among those improvements and adjustments are shooting and facilitating.
Will Jared Sullinger become the Eastern Conference's Kevin Love?
Again, driven by his inability to play above the rim and an ever-evolving power forward position, Sully has only just taken his exploits beyond the arc. And his assist numbers must catch up to Love's. Becoming a better defender would only make him a more well-rounded version of his counterpart, too.
But it could happen. Sullinger could be the Eastern Conference's Love.
"I’m hoping Jared doesn’t put in all that work, because he looks like he has the ability to step out [and shoot thee-pointers]," Love joked previously, via Holmes. "Like I said, in the past couple of years, he’s gotten a lot better."
If Sully continues to improve, Love's the limit.
*All stat used courtesy of Basketball-Reference unless otherwise noted.