The Boston Celtics traded up in the 2013 NBA Draft to select Kelly Olynyk, a 7-footer out of Gonzaga. Many C's fans were initially unimpressed by the selection, but Olynyk quickly proved he was one of the most NBA-ready big men in the draft after his stellar performance in the Orlando Summer League. In five games Olynyk averaged 18 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game. Because of his performance, NBA.com has him ranked as the number one rookie heading into the preseason.
Position: Power Forward
Olynyk played center in college but Danny Ainge says that he will play some power forward in the NBA. Ainge has also hinted that both the power forward and center positions are somewhat interchangeable, so the Celtics will be able to take advantage of Kelly's strengths depending on the matchup. With the Celtics entering a transition phase, the native of Canada will look to immediately put himself in the team's rotation this season.
Click the hyperlinks throughout this article for video clips of Kelly Olynyk. This is a revised scouting report that was originally posted by myself in June. Additional thoughts are based on additional footage that has been watched, including the Orlando Summer League.
Kelly Olynyk has a very good repertoire of post moves and is exceptional finishing at the rim. His soft hands and decisive movements after receiving a pass contribute to his high success rate. Olynyk is quite a unique player considering his upbringing as a point guard. His guard skills mean he has very good ball handling ability (with both hands), so he is very good getting to the basket from the perimeter. From outside he shows beautiful touch on his jumper and has the potential to extend his range to three-point land. Olynyk shot only 23.1 percent from three in the Orlando Summer League, but it appears that shot will be in his arsenal this season.
Olynyk's lack of athleticism really hurts him on defense. He doesn't have the muscle or length to defend the post at a high level and his slow side-to-side speed limits him drastically in the pick-and-roll or any other time he is out on the perimeter. Olynyk's lack of strength also hurts him when rebounding, since he is bound to get pushed around for better positioning. Olynyk is not a shot blocker but has very good basket awareness and does an adequate job at protecting the rim.
Kelly Olynyk has very good straight-line speed, making him a threat in transition offense. Olynyk grew up playing point guard until his junior year of high school, so he possesses elite instincts for a big man. Kelly has a lot of the intangibles that a point guard has when running the floor. He knows where to be and what the best passing lane is for the ball handler, putting himself in a perfect position for a pass.
Other than his speed, Olynyk is not a very athletic player. Even when moving side to side, Olynyk loses a lot of the quickness that makes him special on the offensive end. He gets beat in the pick-and-roll and lacks the length to make up for it. With only a 6'10" wingspan, Olynyk was one of the few players in the draft that had a shorter wingspan than height.
Kelly doesn't have the greatest strength, making him vulnerable to getting out-rebounded or bodied on the post, but he does bring a very high motor to both ends of the floor. Olynyk himself admits that he is not an athletic guy, so he has to play 150 percent in order to stay with some of the great athletic talents playing in the NBA. In the Summer League Olynyk proved he is willing to work by constantly chasing after loose balls and running full speed in transition.
Olynyk had some of the softest hands out of any of the bigs in the draft. When he receives a pass near the rim he knows how to finish the play or draw a foul. He is very decisive with all of his movements and goes up strong with the ball. According to Sports Synergy, Olynyk finished a staggering 75.3 percent of his shots at the rim. Olynyk's soft hands contribute to the fact he has very nice touch. You very rarely will see Olynyk "brick" a shot off the back of the rim; if he misses, it usually softly rims out or his lack of athleticism prevented him from getting off a quality shot.
Speaking of Olynyk's athleticism, you might think that this would deter his effectiveness on the post, but I don't find that to be the case. Kelly shows the savvy of an NBA veteran when it comes to his post moves. In college I didn't think that Olynyk had a go-to move, but he most certainly had one in the Orlando Summer League. He showcased a fantastic up-and-under move that brought back memories of Celtic great Kevin McHale. Olynyk's footwork on both the low and high post is outstanding as he has a myriad of different moves. Olynyk especially does a good job of creating space on the high post when attempting a turn-around jumper.
Olynyk is very good at fighting hard for deep post positioning. Even though he might lack the strength to battle against elite defensive centers, he should be able to compete with most NBA power forwards. Look at this clip of Olynyk battling hard in the lane and eventually slipping in deep for amazing positioning on the post. Kelly seems most comfortable operating from the low right block and does an especially good job finishing with his right hand. These couple of clips are good examples of what he can do there. My favorite is the one at the 5:54 mark, Olynyk jabs his right foot in between the defender, giving himself leverage on the play. After one quick dribble he goes back to his right hand and scores a bucket.
More often than not Kelly likes to finish with his right hand but he does have the ability to put the ball on the floor with his left hand, giving him much added flexibility on the post and from the perimeter. We saw this in the Summer League, as Kelly would receive the ball just inside the three-point line and take it to the hole. Whether or not this translates to the NBA remains to be seen, but the potential is there.
Perimeter Offense/Ball Handling
Since Kelly Olynyk didn't grow to be a 7-footer until his junior year of high school, he spent almost all of his youth playing the point guard position. Olynyk grew up with the ball in his hands, so that has left an imprint on his game as a big man. He has great dribbling ability and is able to get where he wants with the ball. When Olynyk receives the ball on the wing, elbow, point, or top of the key, he is a major threat to put the ball on the floor and drive to the hole. Once he gets in the lane he is very quick to recognize what he should do, whether he establishes post positioning, pulls up with a shot, or goes all the way to the rim for a layup.
One of the most intriguing parts of Kelly's offensive skillset is his jump shot. Olynyk had some of the best fundamentals out of any big men in the draft, which again comes from his upbringing playing point guard. Olynyk has an absolutely flawless jump shot, with perfect mechanics from start to finish. He shows nice touch from the high post and elbows; he even has nice little floater in the paint. Olynyk shot 77.6 percent from the free throw line as a junior and 33.3 percent (on 75 attempts) from three-point range in his three seasons with the Bulldogs.
Even though he only shot 23.1 percent from three-point range in the Orlando Summer League, I believe that Olynyk's success rate will become much more consistent as he develops. His jump shot form is too pristine for it not to. At the least, he will be a knockdown mid-range jump shooter.
Despite Kelly's success with his jump shot, he was not utilized much in any pick-and-pop action at Gonzaga, though he did show that he is very good at setting screens in the pick-and-roll. If he is able to have the same amount of success in the pick-and-pop, he'll be a serious threat from mid-range. I expect Brad Stevens and the Boston Celtics to utilize Kelly in this role, especially if he is playing the power forward position.
Even though Olynyk stands at 7-feet tall, he is not a very good rebounder. Olynyk does a good job of boxing out but doesn't have the length to grab the ball at its apex. Even though he fights for positioning, he gets outleaped by more athletic players and outmuscled by stronger ones. It's hard to imagine Olynyk ever improves drastically, but he still has the size had the ability to average 5-to-7 rebounds per game from the power forward position. While those numbers aren't ideal, they are forgivable if he is on a team next to a true center that would swallow up most rebounds anyway.
While I obviously have my concerns for Kelly Olynyk as a consistent rebounder, he proved in the Orlando Summer League that he has the potential to be a "clutch rebounder." By that I mean he has a nose for the ball, and when crashing the boards he has the instincts to get in position for the rebound. There were a few instances of this in the summer when Olynyk would grab an offensive board and quickly put it up for a basket, draw a foul, or kick it out to the perimeter for another possession.
Kelly Olynyk plays with a lot of energy on the post and does a good job of denying his man deep post-positioning, but if the ball manages to get in deep, he's in trouble. Olynyk lacks the strength to deal with stronger players and the length to defend longer, more athletic big men. With only a 6'10" wingspan, Olynyk will be facing off against many players with arms 4-to-5 inches longer than him. Kelly will battle until the possession changes or the play is blown dead, but he simply doesn't have the ability to compete at a high level on the post.
Olynyk is a very smart defender on the post; he rarely bites on pump fakes and he does a relatively solid job staying with his assignment. Sometimes he gets caught in "no man's land" but I am relatively impressed with his ability to keep himself between his man and the rim. Of course, he won't be a threat to block shots, but he's good enough to make things a little bit difficult for opponents that are penetrating the paint.
Perimeter/Pick and Roll Defense
Even though Kelly has amazing straight-line speed for a man his size, he struggles very much when moving laterally. As a result, Olynyk has very hard time defending on the perimeter. Even when Kelly Olynyk has good footwork, he still gets burnt. Check out this clip to see Olynyk with pretty solid technique (good base and slides feet) but still get blown by. It's not amazing defense by any means but this is a good example to show that even when he does something right, he still might not be athletic enough to make the play.
My concern is when he has bad footwork on the perimeter. On the next few clips from that last link, Olynyk has very bad technique when matched up against his assignment. From the start, he doesn't get set with a wide base, leaving himself vulnerable to dribble penetration. Once the drive begins, he "crosses his feet" and doesn't slide with his opponent. Olynyk must learn to stay more balanced, keep his man in front of him, and always establish a wide base, which would allow him to slide more quickly.
When playing in the pick-and-roll, Kelly Olynyk hedges far too hard and lacks the foot speed to get back to his man. This is a place where Olynyk could get completely exposed at the beginning of his NBA career. If Olynyk is on the floor an NBA team can put him in the pick-and-roll, forcing a switch with a guard. When you bring Olynyk out on the perimeter he is at his most vulnerable since he currently lacks the athleticism and basketball awareness to play effectively in this type of situation. Whether or not this is a problem with the Celtics all depends on the type of defense they play under Brad Stevens. It's possible that Olynyk isn't put in situations where he has to hedge too often.
When I first watched Kelly Olynyk play I was unimpressed with his game. I saw a guy that wasn't athletic enough to play in the NBA. However, over time I found my initial feelings to be false. Olynyk might not be a great athlete -- or even a good one -- but his high motor and intensity make up for his absence of any physical tools.
Olynyk seems like a very hard working, coachable player. He was a redshirt during his junior season and it's obvious he spent loads of time improving his game, since he came back during his redshirt-junior season and played on another level. With that, I do think he will continue to improve. Before the draft he said he wanted to extend his range and he started to shown signs of fulfilling that goal in the Summer League.
He also appeared to improve on the post, where he was already very effective with Gonzaga. Since he'll play some power forward with the Boston Celtics, I don't think he really needs to put on any more muscle, like he would've had to at center. Olynyk could easily become a player that scores a respectable 12-to-14 points per game as a sixth man but I wouldn't put him past him to be a guy that an average 17-to-19 points per game as a starter. Olynyk is an extremely versatile player on the offensive end and still has room to develop.
Olynyk will probably never be a good defense player but he if continues to work hard he has the tools to become an average one. He plays hard on the post and has a high basketball I.Q., so he if he can make strides playing pick-and-roll defense he will never be a liability out there on the floor. I have my concerns about him playing on the perimeter against a stretch-forward, but I think he is already good enough to defend most forwards that primarily operate on the post.
Rookie Year Expectations
The first obstacle for Kelly Olynyk is to get rid of the plantar fasciitis that is currently nagging at him. That is objective number one, as his potential will be stifled if he doesn't get it solved. Once he is past that, I expect Olynyk to have a great year off of the bench. I don't think he'll get enough time to warrant winning Rookie of the Year, but in his time on the court, he will provide an offensive spark.
Fans need to give Kelly some leeway if he doesn't perform just like he did in the Orlando Summer League. He'll be facing many more talented players in the NBA and needs time to develop in order to perform at such a high-level. With time, it could happen, but he is only a 22-year-old rookie and needs time for his game to grow.
Danny Ainge recently mentioned that Olynyk could be paired with second-year player Jared Sullinger. I think that is the perfect combination for Olynyk, as Sully's rebounding ability will allow Olynyk to play power forward. I look forward to seeing the strides Kelly makes on the perimeter as he approaches his terrific potential as a scorer.