Jared Sullinger is in the process of taking his game to the next level, with per 36 averages of 21.1 points, 12 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and a 60.2 eFG percentage. While it comes in just four preseason games, Sullinger's progression is a positive sign for the rising Boston Celtics.
There is a divide among fans and analysts about whether or not Sullinger should be chucking up three-pointers, but so far the results are encouraging; the 6-foot-9 power forward has hit seven of his 12 attempts. It's unfair to expect him to sustain this percentage, but with a smooth form, his overall success will continue.
Sullinger shed weight this offseason, though his improved jumper should also be attributed to his health. Last season he dislocated his right index finger, which is the finger he uses to shoot the ball.
"That kind of hurt my jump shot tremendously due to my follow through. I was following through on my middle finger instead of my index finger," Sullinger told Jay King of MassLive.com. "Now with that being healthy, I think I'll be okay."
The influence that injury can have on your shot can't be underestimated. With a clean bill of health, Sullinger is now developing into the pick-and-pop and high post threat that the Celtics want him to be.
Sullinger's exceptional passing ability and vision for his position is what gives Brad Stevens more versatility in being able to draw up plays. But it also opens the door for more creative improvisation by his teammates:
On this play the Celtics run an action to get Sullinger the ball on top of the key. Sometimes this will end up being a three-pointer, but there are other options on the play, which is why Stevens is excited about his enhanced motion offense.
Sullinger puts the ball on the floor, awaiting Avery Bradley to come his way for a dribble handoff, but instead Bradley makes a perfect read and dives to the rim. Sullinger then makes a fundamental bounce pass for the assist. It's a simple play, but one that exemplifies why the importance of Sullinger's ability to stretch the floor extends beyond shooting the three.
Jared Sullinger has always been efficient on the low post, but he looks much quicker than he has in past seasons, which likely can be contributed to his upgraded body conditioning. Here is a beautifully designed play that puts Sullinger in position to read and react from the low post:
Marcus Thornton sets a cross screen in the paint, which frees Sullinger for a clean entry past on the low post. Sullinger gets the ball, but what happens on the back end of the play is important. Thornton bounces back to the top of the key and flares through a screen set by Marcus Smart.
Had Thornton been more open, Sullinger has the skill to complete an accurate pass for a three-point attempt. Instead, he goes to his bread and butter post move, spinning into a hook over his left shoulder.
Even though Boston won't be going to the low post like a classic Celtics team would, they will also be able to facilitate offense through Sullinger in this area.
Whether it's with the three, on the high post, or the block, Jared Sullinger will see his minutes and usage increase this season with the Boston Celtics. No one knows what level Sully will eventually reach, but his evolution thus far is encouraging.