The Boston Celtics have a better offense when Kelly Olynyk is playing. With Olynyk on the floor, the Celtics score 108 points per 100 possessions. Without him, that number drops to just under 102. That's the difference between a top 10 offense in the NBA and a bottom 5 one. Obviously there are more factors to this disparity, but it's clear the positive impact Olynyk has on the Celtics offense. His ability to stretch the floor is his most commonly touted skill, but there's more to his game than that. With his imminent return to game action, this is a refresher on what he brings to the table.
Might as well start with the obvious one. Olynyk is a good outside shooter, even though he's cooled down a bit after his fantastic start this year. Olynyk is making 35% of his threes this year, which is exactly what he shot his rookie year. This number might not be outstanding, but consider this. Of all seven footers with at least 20 3PA, he's one of only two shooting above 35% this season. Defenses have to at least respect his range, which helps floor spacing for Boston. He's really thriving on the right side of the court, where he's shooting average or above in just about all zones.
An underrated aspect of Olynyk's offensive game is his driving ability. Per NBA.com he's shooting 52% on drives, which is the highest FG% of all Celtics this season.* Among power forwards, he ranks only behind James Johnson, Blake Griffin, and JaKarr Sampson in this category. Given his size, that's an impressive feat. Olynyk has a few different moves in his arsenal to beat the defense on these plays.
*Averaging 2 or more drives per game
Against slower defenders, Olynyk can beat them off the dribble. Take Brook Lopez for instance. Olynyk puts the ball on the floor and just plain beats him to the rim. The end of that play features a hilariously frustrated voice yelling "oh my God". Players clearly aren't jazzed when Olynyk blows by them.
With Dwight Howard guarding him out past the three point line, Olynyk makes another nice play here. He drives right past a lunging Howard. By the time the defense reacts he's already going up for a layup.
Decisiveness when receiving the ball helps his drives too. Ball movement is a staple of Brad Stevens' offense, so quick decision making is paramount. If Olynyk catches the defense a rotating slowly, then he can cut past the unprepared defender. On this play he makes his decision to drive immediately and gets into the paint easily. From there he absorbs the contact and converts the shot.
Olynyk has a few ball fakes that he utilizes to throw his defender off balance. Against the Clippers he pump fakes right after receiving the ball.
It's simple, but good enough to make Glen Davis look foolish on his closeout. The same thing happens here against Elfrid Payton and the Magic. Olynyk catches the ball with space and Payton closing fast. He gives a slight fake and drives to the basket for a nice dunk.
The key to all of this is that Kelly Olynyk is an elite finisher. He shoots 68% in the restricted area. To put that in perspective, that number is equal with Marc Gasol and better than Blake Griffin. If you can't finish, then getting to the basket isn't of much use. Olynyk has the ability to make shots while taking contact, which is a needed skill inside.
Olynyk doesn't have the explosiveness of a Blake Griffin. He won't be throwing down crazy dunks or dishing out flashy assists on his drives. But when he does go to the hoop, he's proven to be an effective player. When these opportunities present themselves, Olynyk needs to be aggressive and make the most out of them.
Pick and Roll
Per NBA stats, Olynyk has been pretty awful in the pick and roll this year. He ranks in the 21st percentile in points per possession. This puts him alongside such luminaries as Kosta Koufos and Zaza Pachulia. The addition of Isaiah Thomas should help here. For the first time in a while, the Celtics have a guard who excels in the pick and roll. Thomas' abilities should open up options for Olynyk as the screener on these plays. Olynyk was an effective p&r player in college, so Thomas can help him return to that level. Hopefully the rest of the season will be a better showcase for Olynyk's abilities in the pick and roll.
Kelly Olynyk's return should add a missing dimension back to the Boston offense. Pairing him with Isaiah Thomas could make for a fun combination. At least offensively, the defense might be another story. The playoff race is heating up and there's just 26 games left. With Jared Sullinger lost for the season, the Celtics need all the help they can get. A healthy Kelly Olynyk can fill a need on offense and help Boston push for the 8 seed.