Jared Sullinger didn’t end his season on a very high note. In fact, new Celtics center Al Horford dominated him, making Sully look slow and ineffective. On the other hand, Sullinger actually had a pretty strong regular season and was effective in his role.
My thinking heading into the offseason was that with the money floating around, Jared would get a bigger offer sheet than what the Celtics would be wise to match. He’s a talented big man, and those guys usually get paid. Apparently that hasn’t been the case. Chris Mannix reports (on 98.5 The Sports Hub) that Sully isn’t getting a lot of interest on the free agent market.
He went a step further and suggested that Sullinger could be back in Boston on a one year deal.
Ainge hasn’t ruled out that possibility. Here’s what he had to say about Sullinger and fellow restricted free agent Tyler Zeller (via Jay King).
"I've talked with both those guys and we'll continue to see how it all plays out," Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said earlier this week. "We are still looking at doing deals and we're certainly not finished for the summer. Those are two very good players and we'll continue talking with them as the summer goes along."
It sure sounds to me like Sullinger and Zeller are considered backup plans. The Celtics don’t have to feel rushed to get a deal done with either one until one of them signs an offer sheet elsewhere. Then the Celtics would have three days to decide to match them.
The first option, it would seem, is to make a deal of some sort that either fills the center spot (Ainge mentioned wanting a "strong center") or reshapes the roster some other way. But if a deal doesn’t materialize, I could certainly see Sullinger back on a short term deal.
I don’t know how much I trust Sullinger to maintain his conditioning (note: not the same as weight, enough with the fat jokes) or even to stay healthy. For those reasons, I would be hesitant to give him a long-term deal. In particular one that tied up too much cap room next summer.
However, on a one-year prove-it deal, Jared could be an excellent rotation player for us—especially now that we’d be relying upon him less with the addition of Al Horford. If nothing else, there’s familiarity and comfort in Brad Stevens’s system. In limited minutes, the Celtics could maximize his effectiveness.
But again, only if it is a short-term deal. Which by the way, could be used as filler in a trade during the season as well. It doesn’t hurt to maintain assets if you have that option.
So just when you thought you’d seen the last of Sullinger in a Celtics uniform, he could maybe, possibly, perhaps be coming back for one more run in Boston. We’ll see.