The offseason is here for the Boston Celtics, and in just a couple of months, they will begin the process of putting next year’s team together. We will take a look at the current Celtics and try to figure out what to do with each of them. We continue today with Jared Sullinger.
Those two words might as well be tattooed onto Jared Sullinger’s forehead.
The red flag gifted Sullinger to the Celtics at a point in the draft where guys like him don’t normally drop. The red flag was openly mocked (especially by me) as Sullinger slowly became the Celtics best rebounder. And the red flag smacked us in the face when the Celtics lost him for the season just days after Rajon Rondo went down with a torn ACL.
Now, Sullinger is a 21 year-old recovering from back surgery. It’s a surgery that may well correct the problem moving forward. But it’s a surgery on a part of the body that freaks people out. Back injuries are no joke. And a chronic back issue can derail a career faster than just about any other injury.
So what do the Celtics do with Jared Sullinger? There really aren’t that many options.
This isn’t a great scenario for a bunch of reasons.
1: If a team passed on Sullinger in the draft, they’re not going to be begging for him in a trade. They’ve made their choice, and a half year, regardless of the promise shown, plus back surgery isn’t going to convince most teams that they so royally screwed up that they must now rectify it by bringing him back.
2: Teams that might consider him will lowball the Celtics because of the back surgery.
3: His value to the Celtics FAR outweighs his salary. Sullinger is on the second year of a rookie deal. His contract this year is worth $1,365,720.
So Sullinger’s value in a trade scenario is simply as a sweetener to get a much more established player. If the Celtics find a deal for a veteran big and it takes giving up a rookie like Sullinger as part of a larger deal, they might have to pull the trigger. But when you consider the three points I just made, I’m not sure that’s something that will happen.
You’ve got a 22 year-old who supplanted a guy who just got almost $20 million from the team in the starting lineup. He immediately became your best rebounder, leading the Celtics on offensive rebounding percentage and overall rebounding percentage (before Shavlik Randolph came along).
The Celtics are transitioning to a younger core, and it’s not a secret that Sullinger has worked his way into that group. And the most he’ll make over the next three seasons is $2,269,260.
When you’re operating under a highly restrictive CBA, a young power forward at that price that can rebound on a team that has largely been allergic doesn’t seem to be someone you give up all too easily.
So to recap…
- They could trade him, most likely as part of a larger deal
- They keep him
- They could waive him, triggering me to lead a search for Danny Ainge that would look exactly like this:
If you can’t figure it out by now, I’m all about keeping this kid through the duration of his contract, and probably beyond.
He’s a rebounder on a team that needs one desperately. Not only that, he’s got the right attitude about rebounding:
“As long as you rebound, you’re going to have a job around here. That my whole goal is to keep my job.”
But he’s more than that. He’s willing to take charges, making him valuable on defense. He’s also got a nice touch, which allows the Celtics to play a pick-and-pop game with him. We saw him score without any plays really being called for him because he has a nose for the ball (code for: he’s smart about getting good position) and he can get you two or three baskets a game just off the offensive boards or finishing off the pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop after a broken play.
Have I mentioned he’s not even 22 yet? And have I mentioned that the Celtics have him for three more seasons on a rookie deal?
Smart GM’s don’t give up 21 year-olds with veteran games unless it nets them a star player in return. If the Celtics find themselves in an “offer they can’t refuse situation,” then I guess they have to take it and we’d watch Sullinger grow somewhere else. But that’s not likely to happen. Which is fine with me.
I like Sullinger. I want him around. I think he’s a big part of this team’s future.
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