Watch any Celtics broadcast over the last few seasons, listen to any podcast, read any article, check in on what any circle around the team is discussing. Whenever Boston forward Kelly Olynyk is mentioned, the topic always arrives at "confidence."
"There is a confidence in Kelly Olynyk not seen the past two seasons," Gary Washburn wrote before the season.
Chris Forsberg reflected earlier in the year, "with Kelly Olynyk hoop-less in consecutive games, the Boston Celtics decided that they would close out Friday's shoot-around by having Olynyk make the final shot."
Coach Brad Stevens has made the notion clear more than anybody, going back as far as last season following a 95-93 win over Memphis, "I got mad at him in the first half, because he passed up a shot right in front of me and traveled. I'm saying, ‘Shoot it.' We're going to get the whole crowd to start saying, ‘Shoot it.'"
Well how's this for confidence in his shot, in Olynyk's third season, he wants in on the NBA 3-point competition.
This makes sense at this moment and time too. All-Star weekend is in Toronto, his hometown, with the shooting contest taking place on Saturday February 13. It'd be a monumental tribute to how far he's come from where it all began.
While it's Isaiah Thomas who has had the true All-Star season for the C's, he isn't the only one worthy of having his strides recognized under the national spotlight. Very quietly, you can make the case that K.O. has worked his way into the "Most Improved Player" race with how consistently effective he has been in just the last two months alone (don't tell Crowder).
The movement to let him shoot began during the C's 116-91 win over the Wizards on Monday night when the team's Twitter account threw out the hashtag #KellyFor3 in an effort to get another player on the plane to Canada.
KO splashes home another 3, his 2nd of the night! Who wants him in the 3-pt shootout? RT & show your love #KellyFor3 pic.twitter.com/sbFW5QKN47— Boston Celtics (@celtics) January 26, 2016
Olynyk himself didn't shy away from the thought either, saying "that'd be fun...especially in Canada," while Thomas made a personal pitch online to help his much-taller teammate get to the weekend with him.
Now let's get @KellyOlynyk into the 3pt contest @NBA #KellyFor3— Isaiah Thomas (@Isaiah_Thomas) January 29, 2016
If for no other reason, the NBA needs to let Olynyk shoot because of how fitting it'd be for him to cap off the best stretch of his career with a title in the competition.
As the Celtics have tried to affirm themselves as legitimate players in the East, Kelly has found his stroke, which has helped the team immensely. A two month stretch of dominance that dates all the way back to Thanksgiving has seen his 3-point efficiency (43.7%) rise above any other player with at least 100 attempts off the bench, while his focus on playing in the team system defensively has helped him reach a 95.7 defensive rating which is tied for the lead among 7-footers (Steven Adams).
We've seen what Olynyk's spurts of success have done for the team in the past. But they'd flash in your face and disappear faster than Brad Stevens leaving the court after a last-second win. With the sample size of his recent run on hand the value of his success is becoming even more significant than ever. Over the last 10 games, while the Celtics have soared to a 7-3 mark and within striking distance of 4th-seed Atlanta; he has been a +9 for the team, shooting an absurd 62.8% outside with 13.0 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.
Extend his run back to the beginning of December and he boasts 12.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game on 50% shooting from the field and three, impressive on 22 minutes a game. His 16.86 PER has risen above Jared Sullinger's to Jahil Okafor range, while his 3.86 real plus-minus (explained here) is 11th among centers.
The stats may paint a better picture of what he's worth to the Celtics more than how great of a player he is individually, but that's still important, especially considering how the team has climbed higher in the standings than many would have expected. And what has he attributed to the success? Well, you can probably guess:
Confidence, definitely confidence and finding that. I was getting on a roll, putting the time in, obviously. After a couple years you know where shots are coming, where they’re not coming. You figure out what’s a good shot, what’s not, when you’re open, when you can get your shots off and keep being aggressive.
If Olynyk has found his key to success, it should bode well for both the team and the league. At this point he's blown past Sullinger in terms of everything except rebounding and everything is going his way lately, especially seeing plays like his full court masterpiece vs. Denver.
With increased confidence, Boston could and should press a more significant role on him. It bodes well for everybody in their pace-and-space style of play that depends heavily on dependable floor-spreading, which the team has displayed sporadically.
Beyond that, I do think he is more marketable of a player than he's been in his first few seasons. Why Kelly wigs haven't popped up in the stands and few seemed to know who he was before he pulled Kevin Love's arm out shocked me. But it all goes back to one thing, his former (hopefully) lack of confidence.
Will a trip to Toronto to shoot some threes make Olynyk a figure league-wide overnight? Maybe if he buries a three with his hair, so probably not. But it's a start, he needs all the spotlight and recognition he can get. I don't think Olynyk has the pure-skill needed to become the front-line player Boston has pursued for years, but if this is his growth into an assertive complementary piece than the team will be even more ready to contend (sell T-shirts for now) when they do find that man.
So, to the NBA, do your best Stevens impression and yell at Olynyk with everything you have "SHOOT!"