In the past two games, Jared Sullinger has been the best Celtic, hands-down, with two big-time double-doubles including 12 points and 16 rebounds against the Phoenix Suns and 14 points and 11 rebounds against the Houston Rockets. His strong rebounding, efficient scoring and all-around hustle have re-written his entire scouting report.
No longer is he the big man who is inherently undersized for his position because, to be honest, it doesn't really matter if he's 6'9", 6'11" or 5'10"—he rebounds as if he's the tallest guy on the court.
With very little vertical jump, he is able to snatch the ball out of mid-air with one hand and ferociously rip the ball down while securing it with both hands. This style of rebounding allows him to rebound in all types of crowds.
The key to his rebounding—beyond his style of pulling them down—is his position. I'd venture to say that no other player in the NBA puts as much emphasis on his position down low. Sullinger is always putting a body on a defender or fighting through a box out on the other end to get the optimal position to corral the miss.
It's almost as if he knows exactly where the ball is going to bounce.
In the last five games, he has averaged over 10 rebounds a game in around 27 minutes a game.
To put that in perspective, Dwight Howard averages 12 rebounds in 36 minutes a game to give him an even rate of one rebound every three minutes.
Sullinger, in the last five games, has a rate of one rebound per 2.6 minutes—pretty impressive for a 6'9" guy who can't jump.
His height doesn't hinder him much on the offensive end either. For the past five games, Sullinger has averaged just as many rebounds as points: 10.2. A lot of his scoring comes off of offensive boards he pulls down as the only player on the Celtics capable of making an impact in that area.
Once he pulls down the rebound, he immediately puts the shot back up, before the defender can even react to the offensive board. Lost in the shuffle of all the talk of how Sullinger isn't quick or can't jump was the fact that Sullinger, ironically, is an incredibly quick jumper.
He can't jump high, but he can elevate the moment he pulls in the rebound and that allows him to finish down low over bigger bodies.
And when he's open from mid-range, he can knock down the jumper with ease. This type of offense makes him an efficient scorer. Shooting 7-of-8 against the Rockets is the proof of how efficiently he can score.
He's an impact player on both ends of the floor, too. Defensively, he takes charges and just generally hustles around. So far, bigger frontcourt players have not had inordinate success exploiting Sullinger's size or lack thereof.
Offensively and defensively, Sullinger is miles ahead of where many people thought he would be at this point in his rookie season.
Few other Celtics players or NBA rookies are as impactful as Jared Sullinger. There's a reason he leads all rookies and the whole Celtics team in plus/minus.
What he does on each end of the court transcends statistics. He is becoming a perfect role player for the Celtics and hopefully will be around for a while.
Forget his size, forget his lack of "athleticism", neither of those weaknesses should matter, because neither hinder him in his game. He is proving every naysayer wrong, making teams that passed on him for his supposed "weaknesses" regret it and helping the Celtics become contenders again in the process.
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