I Still Don't Get Jared Sullinger Falling to 21 (but I'm gonna figure it out)
Despite my Grassy Knoll Series, I'm not a big fan of the ol' mystery. When things just don't make sense, I need to figure them out or I won't feel right. I haven't written much about Jared Sullinger mostly because I just don't get it. Word is he was a top 5 pick in 2011, but one year later, he dropped to 21. Yeah, I know. There were concerns about his back (said in a whispered voice). Whatever. Still not satisfied, though I did enjoy Jared kicking off his first ever post-draft presser by saying, "well, I don't have any back issues." Just makes you kind of smile nice and big, huh?
Anyhoo, this is just my first installment. It's comprised of video from Ohio State and analysis from DraftExpress. At the very bottom you will see the words "back" and "spasm" and "disc." Maybe that's all there was to it. I'm gonna keep digging though. I'll let you know what I find later today. For now, I will make one observation.
If you compare his inside game from the top video (sophomore season) to his form in the bottom video (freshman year), his shot seems a little bit more "adaptive" in year two. Leon Powe's shot was "adaptive," too. By "adaptive" I mean that Powe and Sullinger were constantly going against taller players, so they evolved shot styles to get the rock up and off one way or the other.
Maybe scouts figured that instead of being creative and resourceful, Sullinger was accommodating lack of lift due to, yup, back problems. Like I said, I'll post more later.
December 14, 2010
The biggest key to Sullinger's dominance has been the opposition's inability to keep him outside of the paint. While he's lost a good deal of weight, he's still retained all of the strength in his lower body that makes him so difficult to handle one on one. With his terrific base and low center of gravity, Sullinger is constantly working to establish better post-position down low. Tough and extremely aggressive, he's not afraid to simply put his ass into a defender and go to work until he gets to where he wants to on the floor.
Once there, he has incredibly soft hands to catch pretty much anything thrown his way and an unbelievable awareness for where he is on the court relative to his teammates and opponents. Patient and confident, he has extremely polished footwork and excellent body control, showing a wide array of spins and counter-moves that help him create even higher percentage shots. With his feathery touch and ability to shoot with either hand, he doesn't miss very often despite the fact that he's rarely getting his shot off over the top of the defense. When the double-team inevitably comes, he's extremely quick to recognize rotations and does a very good job of finding open teammates spotting up on the wing.
With his excellent motor and insatiable hunger to score, Sullinger doesn't relent for even a minute when he's on the court, putting a tremendous amount of pressure on the opposition to alter their game-plan to stop him, fouling out entire frontcourts, and getting his team into the bonus early and often.
Sullinger's hands are never more impressive than when watching him operate on the offensive glass. With his wide frame, solid length (7-1 ½ wingspan), excellent fundamentals boxing out and terrific timing anticipating where loose balls will end up, Sullinger already has a major advantage over opponents. The fact that he has magnets for hands make him a Kevin Love-like force of a rebounder at the college level, though, ranking him #1 by a wide margin amongst freshmen in this category, and 7th overall on a per-minute basis. Even though he gets his shot blocked a decent amount, he's got such great instincts that he's often able to follow up and get himself a good look after quickly snagging the loose ball.
February 9, 2012
Sullinger is having a strong season both individually and from a team perspective as the centerpiece of Ohio State's offense. His scoring rate and efficiency are both up, as he ranks as the 4th best per-minute scorer in our top-100 rankings, making nearly 60% of his 2-point attempts, 45% of his 3s and 76% of his free throws. He remains a very good rebounder at the college level, rarely turns the ball over, and is getting more blocks and steals per game. By all accounts, Sullinger is producing like a national player of the year candidate, and should be firmly in the mix for most every award he's eligible for.
Sullinger continues to see the majority of his offense with his back to the basket this season, where's he's one of the most dangerous players in college basketball. He works extremely hard to establish deep position inside with his strong lower body and low center of gravity, drawing plenty of fouls by simply forcing opponents to try and contain him in the paint.
Patient, mature and extremely polished in the post, Sullinger backs players down with brute force and has excellent footwork, being capable of finishing with a jump-hook or spinning into a smooth turnaround jumper. He rarely finishes plays above the rim, usually using his excellent touch to finish plays with his skill-level rather than sheer explosiveness. This is what differentiates him from other top-10 candidate big men such as Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond or Thomas Robinson.
His soft hands allow him to catch most anything that's thrown his way, making him an ideal (and very rare) target to build a half-court offense around. While not the most prolific passer at this stage, Sullinger shows good vision passing out of double teams, turns the ball over at an extremely low rate and rarely forces up bad shots, which only adds to his to his terrific scoring efficiency.
Facing the basket is where Sullinger seems to have improved the most this season. He's regularly stepping out to the perimeter, and is attempting one 3-pointer per game, making 45% of his shots from that range thus far and 36% of his overall jumpers.
Where he's even more dangerous is in the mid to high post, where he sees a large amount of isolation plays in Ohio State's offense every game. Sullinger can put ball on the floor effectively and attack his matchup in a straight line off one or two dribbles, being very difficult to contain thanks to his strength and aggressiveness. Sullinger bounces off opponents and can make difficult shots on the move thanks to his excellent touch, at times using the glass. This is a part of his game that should translate very nicely to the NBA level.
Defensively, Sullinger is fairly effective at the NCAA level as the anchor of the best defensive team in college basketball.
With that said, question marks linger about his potential on this end of the floor at the NBA level, mainly due to his average physical tools. Slightly undersized for a center and not especially agile for a power forward, Sullinger doesn't cover ground very quickly on the perimeter, and isn't explosive enough to offer much of a presence in the paint rotating from the weakside.
He's very intelligent on this end, knowing how to bait opponents into take the shots he wants them to, and doing a good job contesting shots and bodying up opposing big men without fouling. His smarts and solid intensity level help him here, as does his above average length.
Playing for one of the best defensive coaches in the NCAA in Thad Matta, Sullinger has surely learned plenty of tricks that will help him out at the professional level, but his upside here is a bit limited by his average lateral quickness and leaping ability.
To Sullinger's credit, there is already a model in the NBA for players in his mold (such as Kevin Love, Luis Scola or Paul Millsap) who can be incredibly effective with similar limitations, so it may not be prudent to overanalyze his flaws and ignore his tremendous productivity.
The one thing NBA teams will want to study intently is Sullinger's medical report, as he's been slowed this season by back spasms caused by an aggravated disc and plantar fasciitis, being forced to sit out two games in December.
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