I was down on Jared Sullinger in this year’s draft, and it had nothing to do with the medical red flags. So much of his game was predicated on being able to control the game off the glass against smaller college players. Bigger players gave him fits. The bigger issue, honestly, was lateral quickness and the ability to defend. But the Celtics have not only the surrounding talent but the system to allow him to thrive. So if he works out, they’ll look like geniuses whereas the teams that passed on him will look foolish, despite his low success rate on another team.
Anyway, Doc Rivers actually is aware of Sullinger’s issues and is working to protect him from that, in yet another sign of why they’re ahead of the curve on development, even on a contending team. From the Boston Herald:
So coach Doc Rivers is attempting to institute a protection plan. He wants to make sure that Sullinger is never the biggest Celtic on the floor. That way he won’t automatically draw an opposing center in the paint.
“We try to protect him so that won’t happen,” said Rivers. “The reason we played him with Kevin (Garnett) in the second quarter is because the bigger guy was always guarding Kevin. We got the matchup that way.
“Sometimes you have to create the matchup. Some teams don’t have two bigs like that, they only have one. So when you’re playing with Darko (Milicic) or you’re playing with Kevin, you really don’t have that problem. The good thing is that for a long stretch he was guarding a 5. Early on I thought they were taking advantage of it, but as the game went on I thought he got better at it.”
As a lottery pick, Sullinger would not be afforded things like “playing next to Kevin Garnett” and “coming off the bench.” His expectations would be higher, his learning curve sharper, the standards for success way higher. He’s in the perfect situation in Boston from so many levels. Not only can he do the things he’s good at, and look great, he’ll be shielded from the things that would make him a liability on other teams.
Sometimes, the draft just works out the way it should, even when it looks like it shouldn’t.
Or maybe Sullinger just really is that good. Guess we’ll have to see.