Remember when we were all in love with Al Jefferson's game? Ok, some of you are too young to remember that (which kind of makes me feel old all of a sudden) but it is true. He was a young, dynamic, scoring center that could rebound the basketball. He wasn't so great at defense, but no big deal right? He was our guy and that was that.
Fast forward to several years later and Al Jefferson is still a dynamic offensive force that can rebound but not play much defense. So not much has changed and he hasn't seen a lot of the post season in that whole time.
Why do I bring this up in an article about Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk? Well, because they both have a similar scouting report. They are a lot of fun on offense and Sullinger is a talented rebounder, but there's some work to be done on the other side of the ball.
Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger are good and bad together: As an offensive duo, Olynky and Sullinger are mesmerizing. They each move well without the ball, have a deft passing touch, and have all the little tricks you need to score around the rim. They feed off each other, finding one another when there's a mismatch in the post. Defensively it's a different story. Olynyk is not ready for NBA defense, which makes sense: he's a rookie. He gets lost on screens and bullied in the post.... Sullinger is better on defense and great at keeping his man off the defensive glass. But he lacks the height to be an NBA center. Together, they form an exciting NBA frontcourt on one end and a potentially disastrous one on the other.
None of this is to say that they can't get better, but I've heard more than one analyst talk about how slow Olynyk is moving laterally and Sullinger isn't likely to grow any more. So there's a bit of a ceiling for both of them physically.
Still, they are smart, apparently hard working young men who have a good coaching staff around them. I'm pretty confident that they can at least become average defensive players that could work well in a good defensive system. Of course that depends on getting the right guys around them, including perhaps another big man in the rotation. I don't know yet if Faverani is that guy. He can block shots but that alone doesn't make him a good defender.
We've certainly been spoiled the last few years by seeing Kevin Garnett man the paint. It was jarring to see the turnstile baseline defense against the Pistons that led to dunk after dunk. There's going to be lumps like that this season as the young guys learn and grow.
It helps, obviously, that their offense is so good. Seeing Sullinger grab a rebound in traffic and squeeze it up for a putback basket makes me smile. Watching Olynyk snatch a poorly thrown pass, pivot, and find just the right angle to lay it in makes me pump my fist. So many bigs have come through Boston that didn't have half the offensive coordination that these two have. You can just tell that they have "it" on that side of the ball. That makes up for a lot of missed defensive rotations, ...for now.
Time will tell if these guys figure out how to improve their defense enough to let their offensive games shine. That might determine if they will be in Boston for the long haul or if they share a fate with Al Jefferson as a prominent trade chip that didn't get to enjoy the success that followed. Here's hoping for the former.