Last night Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk started in the Rising Star Challenge. They held their own, combining for 22 points and they each filled up the box score. Olynyk had nine points, one rebound, two assists, three steals, a block. Sullinger tallied 13 points, two rebounds, and four assists.
These two players are safe this week as the trade deadline arrives (at least it seems like they're safe). They're roles on this current Boston Celtics team are pretty set in stone. Sullinger is a starter and a leader. He's becoming a volume shooter, taking 12 shots a game. He bangs the boards and is one of the best offensive rebounders in the NBA. He's tough, guards power forwards and centers. He grinds and works hard.
Kelly Olynyk is the rookie. Trying to fit in, making smart decisions. He has proven a steady influence off the bench recently.
In order for this team to be successful again, Sullinger and Olynyk might have to accept different roles down the road. This could happen next year, or the year after.
So here's the question. What types of roles to Olynyk and Sullinger have on a Celtics team that would be good enough to make a run deep into the playoffs? Some of this depends on how Ainge chooses to fill the roster with his draft picks or through trades.
Is Sullinger a starter on a championship level team? We could like to think so, but it seems like Sullinger might be a perfect piece off the bench of a really good team. The things Sullinger does well are great for a sixth man. He rebounds at an elite level. He can score in bunches, he's gritty, and passes extremely well.
Olynyk would be another good bench player (just like he is now) on a very good team. He can shoot the three and extend the defense. He is also a weaker defender.
Where would Sullinger fall on the depth chart of the top four teams in the NBA (Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, and San Antonio Spurs)? On the bench. Even after three more seasons, Sullinger is probably in the same boat: the best player on a good second unit of a championship caliber team.
When Ray Alllen and Kevin Garnett came to Boston, Paul Pierce had to change his role. He was obviously a starter, but his attitude and focus had to shift while sharing the court with other Hall of Fame players.
Sullinger become a leader on this team, both vocally and through his play. Will Sullinger feel he "owns" the role he has already carved out for himself when new players arrive in Boston? Will be open to possibly coming off the bench behind Kevin Love?
The dramatic shift that could occur in the next 12 months could force Jared Sullinger to be a different type of player on a better Celtics team. This is often something that drags teams down during the rebuilding process. Players want the same playing time and points they had when the team was not as good.
Sullinger's true leadership ability might come in the form of welcoming new players that are more talented and might help the Celtics get into the playoffs. He's a big fish in a small pond currently, it will be interesting to see how he handles potentially being a smaller fish in a bigger, and more successful, pond.
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