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Jared Sullinger: What A Difference A Year Makes

Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

If Jared Sullinger entered the draft in 2011, he would have been a lock to be a top 5 pick. But he didn't and back concerns dropped him down a lot on people's draft boards. But it goes beyond that. Even without the back issues, there were some questions about Jared Sullinger's pro prospects this past year. His stats were a bit off from the previous year and his lack of athleticism was exposed more.

With that said, it does help to take a look at the whole picture before judging.

Is Jared Sullinger the Steal of the Draft? - The Triangle Blog - Grantland

What was glaringly obvious to me and explained his personal struggles in 2011-12 more than his bad back or thinner frame was the fact that Sullinger's help was considerably worse this past season than it was during his freshman year. As a freshman, Sullinger had the best shooter in Big Ten history in Jon Diebler and a veteran slasher who could get to the rim at will in David Lighty to spread the floor for him. This past season, thanks to Diebler and Lighty graduating, Ohio State had neither a knockdown shooter or a slasher who could consistently take his defender off the dribble, which is why Sullinger faced many more double teams than he did the season before. Still, he managed to put up pretty much the exact same stats and led his team to a Final Four. And he did so with a bulging disc in his back - an injury that would have put you or me on the couch for at least a month - plaguing him the entire season.

Put in that light, I'm pretty impressed with what he accomplished. The author goes on to compare him favorably to Kevin Love, which might be lofty expectations but a good goal to shoot for. You never know.

True, if Sully left school a year earlier, he'd be a little bit richer than he is today. However, he spent a year learning how to deal with adversity and he spent a year learning how to take care of his body (he shed a lot of weight and had to learn how to use his slimmed down physique - not to mention how to handle the back issue).

He also landed right in an ideal situation for him. He's on a contending team that doesn't need him to be a starter but will use him this year. He's got an opportunity to learn from one of the best in Kevin Garnett (not to mention another jump shooting power forward in Brandon Bass) and hopefully step into a bigger role on the team in the years to come.

It was an interesting year for Jared Sullinger, but while some might have taken that as an excuse, he seems to be taking it as motivation to get better.

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