In Canada's crushing loss to Venezuela in FIBA Americas semi-final, Kelly Olynyk showed his true potential scoring an efficient 34 points to go along with 13 rebounds. While that breakout game was impressive, that was the peak of KO's performance in the tournament where he averaged a modest 12 & 8. He's had big games in Boston where's he looks like the player that people--like myself--compared to Dirk Nowitzki and Marc Gasol, but entering his third year, it might be time to temper expectations and see Olynyk as who he is and not what he could be: a very good complementary piece.
Entering training camp, Olynyk must contend with the additions of Amir Johnson, David Lee, and even rookie Jordan Mickey, but as Boston's most versatile big man, he should see plenty of playing time under Brad Stevens. Consider his role with Team Canada. Alongside starters Cory Joseph, Nik Stauskas, Andrew Wiggins, and Anthony Bennett, head coach Jay Triano used Olynyk similarly as Stevens as a stretch big because of his ability to hit the outside shot, put the ball on the floor, and make a pass.
Check out the highlights against Venezuela. He's picking and popping and hitting threes. He's confident in his mid-range game, driving off a pump fake, and finishing with his left and right hand. The real eye-opener in Mexico City was his aggressiveness in a mismatch on the post. We saw a lot of this in both summer league sessions that Olynyk has been a part of, but he rarely showed his inside game in the regular season. Against a smaller Venezuelan front line, he could back guys down and finesse his way to the rim.
As of now, Olynyk is not a corner or edge piece of the championship puzzle that makes the future any clearer; he's more like one of those pieces in the middle that connects for other pieces. He creates space for penetrating point guards coming off picks (space that Terry Rozier talked about with CSNNE's Kyle Draper as the biggest difference between the college and pro game), acts as a 7-foot light house as a passing big at the top of the key, and makes a big target with soft hands for slashers and drivers.
As Mark Murphy of the Herald suggests, the looming extension deadlines for Tyler Zeller and more importantly, Jared Sullinger could be affected by what management sees in Olynyk entering his third season. As this team starts progressing in its rebuild, Danny Ainge will need to start cutting bait with some of his young players. Consider this a plea to keep him.
Olynyk's value can seem undefinable at times where as Zeller is the only true center on the roster and Sullinger has put together stretches of solid play and by all social media accounts, is coming into camp in the best shape of his career. So, what about Olynyk? Let's just preface this by saying that Olynyk is still two seasons away from any major decision about his future with the franchise, but in the context of Zeller and Sully, he has the uncanny ability to make them both better. I don't think the same can be said about Zeller for Sullinger or Sullinger for Zeller.
Olynyk is just the perfect utility man. If opposing teams go big, KO can play above the break. If Stevens elects to play small ball, Kelly can play as a point 5. Some nights, he might play a mere 12 minutes. In others, he'll log thirty-seven. He'll be inconsistently consistent and consistently inconsistent, doing whatever the team needs.