RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Jared Sullinger

Posted by KDoyle on June 26th, 2012

The 2012 NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 28, in Newark, New Jersey. As we have done for the last several years, RTC’s team of writers (including Andrew Murawa, Kevin Doyle, Evan Jacoby, Matt Patton, and Danny Spewak) will provide comprehensive breakdowns of each of the 35 collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll work backwards, starting with players who are projected near the end of the first round before getting into the lottery as June progresses. As an added bonus, we’ll also bring you a scouting take from NBADraft.net’s Aran Smith at the bottom of each player evaluation.

Note: Click here for all published 2012 NBA Draft profiles.

Player Name: Jared Sullinger

School: Ohio State

Height/Weight: 6’9” / 265 lbs.

NBA Position: Power Forward

Projected Draft Range: Mid to Late First Round

There Are Plenty Of Questions Around Sullinger Heading Into The Draft

Overview: Whether fair or not, much of the attention surrounding Sullinger leading up to Draft night has been on a reportedly ailing back and the fact that he was not invited to the NBA Draft as reported by ESPN’s Andy Katz. Sullinger is not projected to be a lottery pick by experts, and thus did not receive an invitation to the Prudential Center in Newark. Entering his sophomore year, Sullinger was a consensus top five selection in the Draft as he was—and still is—one of the most polished big men in the country. His low post moves and ability to score within 10 feet from the basket is unparalleled, but then his athleticism and health were questioned. Red flags went up back in December when Sullinger was forced to miss Ohio State’s game against Texas Pan American and the following game against Kansas. Despite coping with this hindrance, Sullinger was still one of the top forwards in the nation averaging 17.9 PPG and 9.2 RPG. When at full strength, like he was during his freshman year garnering the USBWA Freshman of the Year award, Sullinger is an immovable force with exceptional hands and the softest of touches around the basket. Not to mention, his mid-range jumper is pretty darned good for a 6’9: guy. But then again, there are the questions regarding his health. One of the most likable guys in this year’s Draft with a smile seemingly always on his face and a jovial manner about him, no one wishes Sullinger to have an injury-plagued pro career that his predecessor at Ohio State—Greg Oden—has had thus far. One thing is for certain, a healthy Sullinger whose skills continue to develop makes for a real steal in the latter half of the first round.

Will Translate to the NBA: A wide body and a proficient offensive player for his low post moves and solid back-to-the-basket game, Sullinger’s most underrated attribute may be his basketball IQ. Although one of the most cliché terms to use when describing an intelligent basketball player, it is 100% true for Sullinger. In his two seasons at Ohio State, Sullinger fouled out of games just twice—he did not pick up more than three personal fouls in the 2012 NCAA Tournament—and is an incredibly smart defender who understands the importance of his position on the floor. On a more tangible level, Sullinger’s offensive game is already NBA-ready; there may not have been a more complete back-to-the-basket player in college basketball last year.

Needs Work: Sullinger’s conditioning and athleticism will need to improve. His finesse game that worked so well at the collegiate level will not successfully translate well against bigger and faster forwards in the League. Furthermore, one must question where Sullinger best fits on an NBA team: an undersized center a la DeJuan Blair or a power forward who lacks the speed of the average 6’9” player? If it is the former, which in my estimation it probably will be given his skill set, Sullinger’s ability to score against bigger forwards will need improving. Recall that Sullinger struggled at times against the length of Kansas’ Jeff Withey in the Final Four shooting just 5 for 19.

Comparison Players:  Chicago’s Carlos Boozer is an apt comparison for Jared Sullinger. Both have smooth touches around the rim, an above average mid-range game for a power forward, and are solid rebounders. Coming out of Duke, Boozer was not projected to be anything more than a role player—hence the Cavaliers taking him in the second round. However, Boozer certainly proved the naysayers wrong having averaged a double-double for his career. Sullinger, to an extent, is in the same boat as Boozer.

Best Case Scenario: First and foremost, Sullinger is 100% healthy heading into the season. Certainly not a good start to one’s career not dressing on the opening night of the season due to injury. Health issues aside, Sullinger playing alongside a proven center would really free up his space on the floor and provide more opportunities to score and be successful. In the early stages of his career, Sullinger will not be expected to be a team’s dominant big man.

Best NBA Fit: The Boston Celtics have back-to-back picks in the first round (21 and 22), and if we are to believe that Sully will fall to the latter half of this round, he would fit in quite nicely with the Celtics. Kevin Garnett is not getting any younger, although he still has one or two years of high production left in him, and Sullinger would make for a nice understudy for KG. Sullinger certainly does not possess Garnett’s versatility and range, but he fills a void in the rebounding category and as a low-post presence.

Scout’s Take (from NBADraft.net): “Sullinger made a mistake not leaving after his freshman season as he was a projected top 5 pick. His weight and health concerns have dropped his stock into the late lottery range.”

*This post was contributed by RTC’s Kevin Doyle. He can be found on Twitter @KLDoyle11.
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