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Sparked by a few recent publications that seemed to suggest that Kelly Olynyk was the most valuable young big man on the Boston Celtics, the CelticsLife staff decided to get together to weigh in on this very subject:

'Good Son' like scenario, you've got pick one, who you got; Jared Sullinger or Kelly Olynyk. Here's what our staff had to say

Burak Tekin

Sullinger. Yes, Olynyk has talent, and yes, after a slow start, his improvement has been impressive. Yet Sully still gets the nod. In a depleted Celtics frontcourt, the guy held his end against the legit Centers in the NBA. I don't mean to say that he statistically shone or something, but his defense has shown me more than enough sparkle for the last 2 years. Olynyk, I still have doubts.

Now for the implied part of the question: Would I choose a Sully-Olynyk pairing, or a Sully-Zeller one? I will go with the latter. After a slow start, Olynyk has definitely improved and has again had a strong Summer League showing, but he still needs to learn stuff, especially on the defensive end. The best case scenario for Olynyk is to make him a dangerous stretch 4 and make use of his above-average court vision and penetration for his position. Is Zeller's defense better? Not necessarily, but size matters. If both are on a learning curve defensively (and Zeller has shown signs of improvement in that department), I would rather roll with a 7-footer and turn Olynyk into the stretch 4 he's to become (remember he's the new Dirk, right?)

Julian Edlow

Sullinger is clearly the best prospect out of all the big men on the Celtics’ roster. That isn’t up for debate in my mind, but Sully’s natural position is power forward. So, what is debatable is whether Olynyk or Zeller should be the starting center. I give the initial nod to Olynyk. He's younger and has already been playing under Brad Stevens in Boston for a year. He had a strong finish to the 2013-14 season, so let’s see if any of it was for real. If Zeller outplays Olynyk during any stretch, I am all for making the change to Zeller as the starting center.



Eric Blaisdell

Sully. Seven days a week, 10 times out of 10, it's Sully. I'll admit that I was not a fan of Danny Ainge trading up to draft Olynyk, but the kid showed me he's a more than capable player in the league. His offense and passing are much better than I expected. Even so, he strikes me as a guy best suited coming off the bench. Even Ainge said that's what he was drafting after he made the pick, a role player. Sully, on the other hand, isn't that much worse offensively than Olynyk, is a much better rebounder and a much better defender. That last piece is key. Sully is younger, but is already a better two-way player than Olynyk. Watching Sully and Avery Bradley last season, I found myself thinking that they could absolutely be starters on a contender with a healthy Rajon Rondo, an elite wing and an elite big. While Sully's ceiling is probably as a third or fourth option, I can't say the same about Olynyk. Maybe I'm wrong. Only time will tell.

As for starting them together, it just doesn't make sense to me. Sully is not a rim protector and Olynyk's defense is, well, less than ideal. There'd be layup lines a mile long when teams came to Boston. I know teams like the Miami Heat have shown that you don't need a center to win and positions have been blurring for a few years. And yes, I know everyone loves the idea of having stretch bigs out there shooting threes and clearing out the paint for our slashing guards, but you still need someone inside your paint to keep opponents honest. If Sully is better than Olynyk, which I believe he is, Sully starts and Olynyk comes off the bench. There's also the issue of starting Olynyk, only to pull him out and sit him on the bench some time in the future when a better option comes along. We have no idea what that would do for his confidence. Let's see what Zeller can do. He's a true center, which is something neither Sully or Olynyk can claim.

Matt Mackay

Sully hands down. Olynyk just looks a step slow to me on EVERYTHING. He can only dominate against summer league competition.

If Kelly can get up to NBA speed than he could be a solid scoring big, but right now he's just slow.

Matt Richissin

Going to have to go with the crowd here, it's absolutely Jared Sullinger.


At the risk of sounding like a complete homer, it feels like people outside of Boston are sleeping on just how good Sully really is. He's an elite rebounder, above-average defender, has a great midrange game, works well in the paint, and is an underrated passer. He'll clearly never be a superstar, but a fringe all-star type, absolutely.

The name I keep thinking of when I think about Sullinger is Paul Millsap. Millsap won't wow you, but go through the NBA rosters page and ask yourself how many teams Millsap could drastically improve. He's the 'missing part' on 2/3rds of the league. That's the kind of player I think Sullinger could become if he can stay healthy.

Olynyk? I think he's a 3rd big. He's got a decent post game, is a really good passer, he might be able to stretch the floor (he actually was pretty subpar outside of the paint last season), and I can appreciate that he always seems to be in motion. Julian and I actually did a breakdown of that in an 'Adopt A Player' feature last year. I think his best case scenario is some kind of combination of Matt Bonner and Nick Collison. Heady and hardworking, with an ability to stretch the floor.

The Verdict

Sullinger 5, Olynyk 0.

Tell us what you think below

Matt Richissin 8/15/2014 01:56:00 PM Edit
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