Slowly but surely, Kelly Olynyk is turning into a pretty good NBA player.
After a slow start to his NBA career (first 40 games: 6.4 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 42% FG, 29% 3 PT), Olynyk has found his groove over the last 11 games, increasing his production across the board (12 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 2.4 APG, 49% FG, 40% 3 PT). Those numbers look even more impressive when you realize that Olynyk has averaged only 23 minutes-per-game over that stretch. Per-36 minutes, Olynyk is averaging 18.8 points, 11.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists since early February while posting a PER north of 22 (league average is 15).
He's also made some improvements on the defensive end, although that's clearly still where he needs to do the most work. He'll never be the anchor of a good defensive team, but he's becoming a better help defender, and his offensive talents are beginning to outshine his defensive limitations.
Amazingly enough, Olynyk is likely headed towards an All-Rookie team despite his tough start to the season.
The way the rookie team works is that voters select five players for the first team, and five players for the second team, regardless of position, and the ten players with the most votes comprise the teams. So it's basically a rookie top ten list. With that in mind, here is where KO ranks in a host of categories amongst rookies:
Minutes played - 12th
Points - 7th
Rebounds - 6th
Assists - 9th
Blocks - 11th
Steals - 17th
FG % - 3rd (minimum 200 attempts) 1st (minimum 300 attempts)
PER - 3rd (minimum 500 minutes played)
Win Shares - 4th
Looking at the list of rookies, there are only five players that I put clearly above Olynyk in terms of their play this season: Michael Carter-Williams, Victor Oladipo, Steven Adams, Tim Hardaway Jr and Giannis Antetokounmpo. After that, there's another group of players right along Olynyk in Mason Plumlee, Tony Snell, Ryan Kelly and Trey Burke. But it's really hard to make the case that Olynyk has not been a top ten rookie this season.
Of course, this says more about KO's rookie class than it does he himself. Most seasons, 7.6 PPG, 4.9 RPG and 1.7 APG won't cut it when it comes to landing a spot on the All-Rookie team. But still, if you've been watching the steps that Olynyk has taken over the last month, it's clear he belongs in the NBA, and that he has the chance to be a very good offensive player in this league. The moment he was drafted, I viewed him as the third big man on a good team (eventually), and that view has not changed. He brings energy and his unique skill-set is starting to veer it's head on a nightly basis.
As for whether Olynyk was a good choice by Danny Ainge last summer, here's my take on it.
Olynyk was a conservative pick, but that does not mean he was a bad pick. While passing on Antetokounmmpo may turn out to be a huge mistake, that really should not be the "be all, end all" when it comes to Olynyk. Last year's draft was considered "historically weak" and the Celtics appear to have grabbed a legitimate rotation guy (with the potential of becoming a very good third big) with the 13th pick. While the Greek Freak may very well become more than that, there are also several players picked above Olynyk that have looked terrible this season (Anthony Bennett, Otto Porter, Ben McLemore, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Cody Zeller). Obviously, one season is not enough time to classify a pick as a success or failure, but it's enough time to make a first impression. And so far, Olynyk has been pretty solid.
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For more of my articles, click here Michael Dyer 3/11/2014 01:31:00 PM Tweet