Jared Sullinger isn't hiding the fact he's trimming weight. Many fans remain skeptical despite his photos on social media, but I'm buying what Sullinger's selling. There's no way he'd talk smack unless he's ready to walk the talk.
Sullinger's potentially superior conditioning could improve his weaknesses; today we're focusing exclusively on how his weight loss could impact his shooting potential.
In order to reach his overall upside, Sullinger must become an effective shooter. Sullinger is actually one of the best mid-range shooters in the NBA. In the last two seasons, he ranks 10th of 133 in field goal percentage on shots from 16-plus feet.
The Boston Celtics big man has excellent shooting mechanics; he dips the ball and sweeps his feet forward to generate power, and has a clean, high release.
While he's struggled from behind the arc, at just 27.5 percent in his career, he has flashed potential. In his first 29 games last season he shot 35.1 percent before regressing in the second half, ultimately finishing at a paltry 28.3 percent. But his issues from deep might've been due to poor conditioning and not a lack of pure shooting touch.
Over the last two seasons, Sullinger shot just 24.4 percent from three with no rest and 31 percent with two-plus days of rest. In other words, the data suggests Sullinger shoots more efficiently when he's rested. This is unlike the NBA average for three-point percentage, which remains fairly consistent, regardless of days of rest.
Players running on empty sometimes miss short on their shot attempts, since playing basketball with tired legs is no easy task, which could be the case with Sullinger.
Over the last two seasons, 45 percent of Sullinger's missed three-point attempts were short (front-rim or air ball), 37 percent were long (back-rim or backboard), and 18 percent missed to the left or right side.
Shooters miss short for a multitude of reasons, but primarily because they aren't using their legs, they don't complete their follow-through, and/or due to fatigue.
It's also possible a shooter misses short when their shot is contested. Sullinger shoots 31.8 percent when the closest defender is 6-plus feet away, per NBAsavant, and just 22 percent when the defender is closer.
However, there isn't a correlation with defender distance and his "miss type" (short, long, or side), further suggesting that Sullinger has likely experienced tired legs.
Sullinger can stroke it from mid-range -- now he needs to extend beyond the line. With better conditioning, he may have more energy, potentially leading to increased range, and fewer "short misses." A "long miss" is favorable, since it gives the ball a chance to bounce around and go in.
This is crucial for his development. Even Brad Stevens spoke before on how Sullinger should model his game after Kevin Love.
Love went from looking like the Marshmallow Man to the Greek God of basketball.
It's unfair to expect Sullinger to make a Love-like transformation, but imagine how much money you would've won if years ago you bet Love would model for ESPN's 'Body Issue.'
The photos Sullinger has posted online suggest he is doing all he can to reveal his muscles that have been hidden underneath layers of fat, so he's at least on his way.
"[Love] is shooting the ball really well and I think that helps him out," Sullinger said in a 2014 interview with Bleacher Report. "[Shooting] forces quicker, smaller guys to guard him, and that way he gets an advantage on the post. Defensively, it's hard to guard him, and I think that's what makes him special."
Sullinger is correct. There's a domino effect if he shoots at a higher clip: stiff 7-footers wouldn't have an excuse to leave him open outside, which would free driving lanes for him. This could lead him to easier match-ups on the low post, where he already scores an effective 0.87 points per possession.
With weeks to go before training camp and months before opening night, now is the time to buy stock in Jared Sullinger.