Kelly Olynyk's sophomore season was a bit of a disappointment. It's not that he took a step back last season - in fact he slightly improved in some areas. He just didn't make the leap that many expected from the former lottery pick. After an uneven season in which he battled injuries and inconsistencies, Olynyk is back in the gym working hard to make himself into a more effective player.
This is a pivotal season for Olynyk, who enters the final guaranteed year on his rookie contract. The Boston Celtics hold a player option worth just over $3 million for the 2016-17 season, so the team will soon need to decide if Olynyk will play a part in the future of this franchise. If he flourishes this season he could prove to be a bargain as a cost controlled asset in an environment with a rapidly rising salary cap. If his progress stagnates, the Celtics may look to upgrade at his position or hand his role over to a younger player with more upside.
Olynyk is working hard this summer to ensure that it's the former scenario and not the latter. The 7-footer has been working out at the Celtics practice facility in Waltham for the past couple of weeks to keep himself in shape and work on becoming a more efficient player.
"For me, the offseason is a well-rounded thing, but I just want to get a lot of threes up, and work a little inside-out game," Olynyk told the Boston Globe. "The offseason is really a time where you've got to get healthy. That's something that's really a major focus."
An ankle injury cost Olynyk over a month last season, which stunted his development and was likely responsible for his second-half inconsistencies. Olynyk played well early in the season, but struggled with his shot following his return from injury. His first month back was his lowest scoring month of the season, as he averaged only 8.1 points per game in March on a putrid 37 percent shooting from the floor. He would recover to finish the season with one of the most efficient months of his young career, but by that point his role had diminished, with his minutes being cut drastically during the stretch run and into the postseason.
If Olynyk is to earn a significant role in the rotation next season, he'll need to avoid these types of setbacks. Injuries can't always be prevented, but staying in shape throughout the summer to make his body stronger will help increase his chances of staying healthy.
Improving his efficiency when he is on the floor will also be a key for Olynyk this season, which is why he emphasized the work he is putting in on his three-point shooting. Despite his height, the lanky Canadian doesn't have the strength to battle most other big men. In order for him to be most effective he has to be able to stretch the floor, which is a skill that is becoming increasingly important for big men in the league today. Olynyk isn't quite a knock-down shooter from beyond the arc, but his 34.9 three-point percentage was sixth among centers that averaged at least one attempt per game last season.
Olynyk's season will mostly be remembered for how it ended, with him locking arms with Kevin Love, leading to the season-ending shoulder injury that kept the star forward out of Cleveland's run to the NBA Finals. After putting the incident behind him and burying the hatchet with Love, Olynyk's focus has turned to working on making next season memorable for a more positive reason. His future with the team may depend on it.