Camp questions: Should we be worried about Kelly Olynyk's foot injury?

Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images
In today's edition of "Camp questions" we're taking a look at Celtics first round pick Kelly Olynyk as he prepares for his first season in green.

About Kelly Olynyk:

The Canadian born Olynyk had a very interesting college career at Gonzaga. He played only 12.3 minutes per game as a freshman, and 13.5 MPG as a sophomore, and did not look anything like an NBA prospect at the halfway point of his time in Spokane. That's when Olynyk made the decision to sit out his junior season and instead spent the year working on his game. He added muscle and came back a much stronger player, especially in the low post where he was suddenly dominant. And it payed off.

During his redshirt junior season last year Olynyk broke out in a big way, averaging 18.1 PPG and 7.3 RPG (in only 26.5 MPG) for the Zags, and improving his draft stock drastically.

During June's draft, Danny Ainge thought highly enough of Olynyk to trade the 16th overall pick, plus two future seconds for his services. And Olynyk immediately showed off his skills during the Orlando summer league, averaging 18 and 8 and earning first-team honors while showing off a wide variety of offensive skills.

It hasn't been all good news though as Olynyk has also been dealing with plantar fasciitis in his foot, a painful condition that can linger — sometimes for years. However, Olynyk is expected to be a full participant in camp starting next week despite the injury.

Olynyk is in the first year of his rookie contract and will make $1.99 million this year. He is also under contract for 2014-15 and then the Celtics have team options for both 2015-16 and 2016-17.


1. How will Olynyk's skill-set translate to the NBA?

Whenever a player makes the leap to the NBA, it's always interesting to see which of his skills translate from college to the pros.

In Olynyk's case, it will be particularly interesting to see if he can maintain the freakish level of efficiency he displayed at Gonzaga as he transitions to the NBA.

According to Draft Express, Olynyk averaged 1.13 points per possession (ppp) last season, the highest mark of anyone in the 2013 draft. Even more impressive was that KO averaged 1.10 ppp in the half court, where scoring is always more difficult than in the open court.

Olynyk excelled in the post, hitting 58% of his shots from the post, and 70% at the rim, showing that the post moves we saw in Orlando were also immensely successful in college.

Of course, it would be foolish to expect Olynyk to match these numbers as he makes the leap from the West Coast Conference to the Atlantic Division. But as a general rule, efficient players in college become efficient players in the pros.

There is also the matter of Olynyk's defense, which by all accounts is below average. In my opinion Olynyk is NBA ready on the offensive end right now, but the real challenge for Brad Stevens and his staff will be finding a way to hide him on defense.

2. Is Olynyk a favorite to make the NBA All-Rookie team?

I know this is somewhat stupid, but hey, if college football can put out a pre-season poll and college basketball has "pre-season All-Americans"..we can speculate about the pre-season All-Rookie team.

Take a look at the 2013 draft class. Not exactly a banner group of power forwards and centers, is it? In fact, here is every PF/C drafted in round 1.

1. Anthony Bennett, Cavs - PF
4. Cody Zeller, Bobcats - C
5. Alex Len, Suns - C
6. Nerlens Noel, Hornets - C
12. Steven Adams, Thunder - C
13. Kelly Olynyk, Celtics - PF/C
16. Lucas Nogueira, Hawks - C
21. Gorgui Dieng, Jazz - C
22. Mason Plumlee, Nets - PF
27. Rudy Gobert, Nuggets - C

Ten guys, and almost all of them have question marks. Whether it be health (Noel, Len), transitioning from Europe (Gobert, Nogueira), or just lack of expected playing time (Adams, Dieng, Plumlee), there are very few players on this list in better shape than Olynyk when it comes to making an impact. Bennett figures to get significant playing time on a solid team, so he probably has a leg up on KO..but besides him and maybe Zeller I'd put Olynyk right up there.

Now this is not to say that this means all that much. After all, this is a weak draft class and Olynyk has his own question marks (injury, poor defense), but it's fair to expect Olynyk to make a legitimate impact this season and compete for a spot on the All-Rookie team.

3. Should we be worried about his injury?

Now it's time for the turd in the punchbowl. Olynyk is currently suffering from plantar fasciitis in his foot, which caused him to miss the FIBA basketball championships as he tried to give the foot some rest.

The problem is, plantar fasciitis is not the type of injury that just fades away with a months rest. Sure, it may get better temporarily, but in general the injury returns with any strenuous activity. Activity like, say, playing NBA basketball.

This is the same injury that has impacted Joakim Noah, Tim Duncan and Shaq over the years, and if the pain is not unbearable, it is the type of injury that you can play through. But there are risks. For example Pau Gasol played through plantar fasciitis last season, only to tear the fascia and end up missing over two months. The same thing happened to Angels first baseman Albert Pujols earlier this season in baseball.

But even if Olynyk's doesn't get to that level this season, this is still a red flag. This is the type of injury that gets worse the more you play on it, and the fact that he's already dealing with it is troubling to say the least.

Keep in mind that Olynyk played 12 minutes per game in 2009-10, 13 MPG in 2010-11, sat out 2011-12 and then averaged 26.5 MPG last season at Gonzaga. Does that look like a guy with a lot of tread on his tires? Not exactly.

So now what happens as Olynyk prepares for his first 82 game season? Does he find a way to play through the pain without it hindering his production? Does he end up getting shut down in February? The bottom line is we don't know. But it's certainly something to keep an eye on as we get started this season.

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