I don't know if anyone has noticed, but Kelly Olynyk is starting to look like a breakout candidate. The Boston Celtics are playing better than most people expected and currently sit at 3-4. While I'm not ecstatic about a record below 0.500, I am starting to get excited about the prospects of our future.
When most NBA fans or analysts start to talk about the Celtics, they talk about the improved play from Jared Sullinger. I am not here to disagree with the fact that Sully is putting together a nice season and seems to be improving every game, hat being said, why isn't anyone talking about Olynyk?
Kelly Olynyk's counting stats aren't incredible, as he's averaging around 13.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 1.9 assists. To put this into perspective, he is the leading scorer of all sophomore NBA players, and he was the second leading rebounder going into the game against the Thunder. So while he's not dropping 20 and 10 like Anthony Davis did in his second year, he is proving to be one of the better offensive players that came out of his draft class.
Not only is Olynyk one of the highest scorers out of his draft class, but he is scoring at a wildly efficient clip. He is shooting over 60% from the field, and a missed three during garbage time against the Thunder dropped his three point percentage to 50%.
It can be argued that Olynyk has developed into the Celtics best all around shooter already. He is also posting a PER above 20 (the only other Celtic to do so is Sullinger). While I don't expect his efficiency to remain quite so high, I do think he is developing into an absolute fixture of the Celtics offense. His passing and floor spacing are invaluable to an offense that ranked 6th in the league before the horrendous shooting night against OKC.
Olynyk finds ways to score within the offense, and if anything, he is a little too tentative at times. It sounds like both Stevens and his teammates are telling him to be more aggressive, so I'm hoping that his early season run gives him the confidence to take that next step.
While I do want him to be more aggressive with his shot, I don't want it to come at the expense of his passing. I know he doesn't have gaudy assist numbers, but he almost always makes the right pass. He keeps the ball moving, and he has a good eye for hitting the open man. He also seems to end up with a lot of secondary assists (his passes lead to passes that end with a score). Olynyk just plays offense the right way, and his high basketball IQ really makes him a nightmare in the high post for opposing defenses.
One thing that could get Olynyk's counting numbers up is just staying on the floor. I know I'm not the only Celtics fan that cringes every game when Olynyk picks up 2 early fouls and has to come out of the game. Most of these fouls are of the ticky tack variety or come off of the ball. If Stevens can just work with Olynyk to get rid of the pointless fouls, he will be able to stay on the floor a lot longer. So far this season, Olynyk is averaging right under 28 minutes a game. I believe he has the stamina to easily play 30+ MPG, but he has to cut down on his number of fouls for that to even be possible. I think if he keeps out of foul trouble, Stevens would be happy to give him 34-35 MPG. Olynyk is just too much of a positive when he's on the floor to keep him out any longer than we have to.
I know it is early in the season, and most folks may think that I am jumping the gun a little bit on Olynyk having a breakout season. However, take note of the fact that this trend extends all the way back to the All-Star game last season. After the All-Star game last year, Olynyk averaged 11.7-6.2-1.5 with a 51.1-42.6-81.8 shooting split. He has proven over a pretty long stretch now that he can be a high efficiency offensive player. The next step for Olynyk is just to shoot the ball more.
While I would love for Olynyk to break out with some gaudy stat lines to show up many of the people that doubted him, he is the kind of player that a rebuilding team needs to start progressing towards championship basketball. Doesn't he seem like a player that would play for the Spurs?
You won't hear much about it on the mainstream media because his numbers aren't eye popping, but a guy doesn't have to take 20 shots to dominate a game. While some people are saying that Sullinger is in the midst of his breakout campaign, they are forgetting to mention that his sidekick, Kelly Olynyk, is too. It is pretty exciting as a Celtics fan to realize that 2 of our young guys are looking like players that we could definitely build around.