One month into the 2013-2014 season, it is time to evaluate the sophomore progress of last season’s rookies. Which players have reached the upper echelon of the 2012-2013 rookie class? There has certainly been some shuffling within the top 5, which I have ranked as follows (with apologies to Jonas Valanciunas):
#5: Jared Sullinger
Draft placement: 21
College: Ohio State University
NBA team: Boston Celtics
Position: Power Forward
Originally considered a top 10 prospect, Jared Sullinger fell to 21st in the 2012 draft after being red-flagged by NBA doctors. The thought was that Sullinger’s back issues could shorten his NBA career (and still might). Some team doctors even advised their front office not to draft him in the first round at all, but the Celtics couldn’t pass up a potential bargain.
Unsurprisingly, Sullinger required back surgery in February, missing the rest of the 2012-2013 season. He only participated in 45/82 games, often for fewer than 20 minutes when healthy. However, Sullinger has come on strong this year. Averaging 12.1 points and 6.9 rebounds may not initially sound impressive, but he’s managed to do so while Celtics head coach Brad Stevens figures out what to do with 5 big men legitimately competing for minutes in the frontcourt.
In Jared Sullinger’s very first start of the season, he posted 19 points and a career high 17 rebounds. He has started every game since, averaging 15.0 points and 10.2 rebounds in the starting lineup. This sort of production is not only sustainable, it’s likely to improve as he sees meaningful minutes on the court. With only Jeff Green as a consistent scoring threat, the Celtics will lean heavily on Sullinger, further speeding his development.
2013-2014 Highlight Game: Career high 26 points off the bench vs. the Portland Trail Blazers