Kelly Olynyk impresses Celtic veterans with his basketball IQ

By Clint Corey

As Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald reported, Kelly Olynyk has come in right away and impressed many of The Celtic NBA veterans with his basketball savvy.
Brandon Bass, who will be competing with Olynk for minutes at the power forward position observed:
“From practice and the first games, you can see he’s got a good feel for the game,” said Brandon Bass, a veteran who will battle for time in the rotation with Olynyk. “Some guys are just basketball savvy, and I think he’s one of those guys. It’s still early. We’ll see how it goes.”

Courtney Lee elaborated:
“He has a good feel for the game,” said Lee, echoing the theme that always seems to arise, even in separate conversations. “We’ve got sets in now that allow everybody to showcase their ability. He’s comfortable, and he’s capable of making those plays.
“The more we get used to this system and get used to each other and playing with each other, it’ll go even better. But he’s showing he’s good.”

Kris Humphries was a little more subdued in his assessment but still had plenty of complimentary things to say about Olynyk:
“He’s shown us some nice things throughout the time I’ve seen him, so I look forward to more from him. He’s made a couple of real nice plays that you don’t see rookies make. He has a knack for passing the ball, and we’ll see what else we can get from him out there.”

That Kelly Olynyk has a high basketball IQ is far from surprising. After all, he played the point guard position until he was a junior in high school when he sprouted from 6'3" to an imposing 6'10".

In fact Olynyk's tale is not unlike the story of Anthony Davis, the number 1 pick in the 2012 draft.

Heading into his junior year at Perspectives Charter High, Davis was a lanky 6-foot-2 ballhandler who was most effective slashing to the bucket. A year later, he was an incredible eight inches taller.

Davis transformed from perimeter player into one of the best shot blockers the college game has seen since the days of Patrick Ewing and Hakeem Olajuwon.

Although, they are different type of players, the constant for both Davis and Olynyk they are power forwards who possess guard skills.

Did I also mention that Olynyk's father Ken was head men's basketball coach at the University of Toronto from 1989 to 2002 and the Canada junior men's national team from 1983 to 1996 and his mother mother worked for the Toronto Raptors from 1995-2004 with one of her jobs being scorekeeper?

Finally, Olynyk played his college ball at Gonzaga for Mark Few, a very well regarded coach whose team was the number one seed going into last years NCAA tournament with few, if not a single 5 star recruit on the roster.

Hence, it's no wonder Olynyk is adept at the basic fundamentals of the game. He's been around basketball and great basketball minds his entire life.

Kelly's strong understanding of the basic precepts of basketball displayed prominently Saturday night in Boston's 30 point blowout of The Knicks. Kelly had his best game of the preseason totaling 15 points on 5 of 6 shooting as well as six rebounds in 25 minutes.

Easily his most efficient offensive showing in his brief career as a Celt.

However, it was one play in this game that particularly impressed me, that came late in the first quarter. On this play, Courtney Lee and Olynyk ran the pick and roll to perfection for an and one for Olynyk.

Now, I know what you're thinking: "What's so impressive about that? It's just your basic pick and roll."

A couple things:

For starters, Olynyk held the screen. Of course, it's always situational, but most big men in the NBA slip the screen and don't take the contact before they roll to the basket.

Here's an excellent example featuring Amare Stoudemire of the aforementioned New York Knickerbockers:

In this example, Stoudemire doesn't even attempt to get a body on his defender and just gets by on raw athletic ability.

The same principle can be applied to Dwight Howard, another freakish athlete at this point in his career. If you notice in this Laker preseason tape from last year the person setting the pick for Steve Nash almost always holds the pick.

However, with the Dwight Howard example, with very few exceptions, he slips the screen and just relies on his leaping ability.

In contrast, here are some examples from two of the best ever to play the game of how it should be executed; Karl Malone and John Stockton.

As this video makes evident Malone is a good teammate for holding the screen and often times punishes John Stockton's defender with his pick.

Now, the other thing that was so impressive about the Courtney Lee-Kelly Olynyk pick and roll is that after the pick Olynyk made a reverse pivot sealing his defender.

This is once again a rarity in today's game with most players selfishly looking to get the dunk so they can be on Sportscenter (see previous examples). As a result, they don't take the extra moment to exercise good footwork.

Kevin McHale and Larry Bird in fact, were also both maestro's in the pick and roll and McHale demonstrates a textbook reverse pivot in the first example of this awesome old school instructional video:

Olynyk's ability in the pick and roll will pay dividends for The Celtics because at Butler Brad Stevens Butler was a genius at putting wrinkles in the pick and roll on both the offensive and defensive ends which I assume will continue with The C's and Kelly Olynyk can lead by example.

Also, his selfless play will hopefully be infectious for the rest of his teammates, because, after all, that's "The Celtic way."

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