After a successful 2-year stint with the Ohio State Buckeyes in which he led the school to two Final Four appearances, Jared Sullinger seemed all but locked in to be a lottery-pick in this upcoming NBA Draft.
Oh, how things have changed.
Not only does it appear that Sullinger will fall out of the lottery, but according to ESPN.com, he won’t even be invited to the Draft itself due to reports the league has received indicating that Jared won’t be picked in the top-15 selections.
After undergoing several medical tests at the NBA Draft combine this past week, Sullinger has been officially red-flagged by doctors over concerns of his back. Some doctors have advised their teams to avoid picking Jared fearing that his back issues may indeed shorten his basketball career. Word has spread across the league and it appears that many teams in the top 10-15 picks will be passing on Jared Sullinger this Thursday night.
His results at the NBA Draft combine didn’t help his stock either. Now whether or not his back issues came into play during his testing remains to be seen. He placed in the bottom-5 in nearly every event, posted a pathetic score in the 3/4 court sprint test and barely hit 9 reps on the bench press (not a good sign for a potential big man in the NBA).
In 2009, current San Antonio Spurs forward DeJuan Blair encountered the same problems and difficulties Sullinger is currently experiencing. Doctors red-flagged Blair for having no ACL’s in either of his knees. A dominant low-post big man in Blair who was predicted to be a late-lottery pick fell all the way to the 2nd round and was picked 37th overall by the Spurs. DeJuan has had a productive career up to this point (8.5 points and 6.5 rebounds) and has for the most part remained injury-free.
Sullinger is certainly a more talented player than Blair, but those back issues are bad news. That doesn’t even factor in his height, which at 6’8-6’9, might be considered too short to play the center position (which he played in college) in the NBA.
Jared averaged 17.5 points and 9.2 rebounds a game for the Buckeyes in his final year with the collegiate. He has a high IQ for the game of basketball and it showed on the court during his 2 years at Ohio State. Despite all of that, his nagging injuries and physical conditioning are both huge problems that will surely affect his draft positioning this Thursday.
So which team takes a huge risk and selects Jared Sullinger? Who will be the team that sees more reward than risk in picking a player who while having serious injury issues that need to be addressed, still has a tremendous knack for the game of basketball and can contribute right away if given the chance?
There are a few teams that fit that mold…..
How about the Denver Nuggets at pick #20? The “Mile-High” city would be the perfect situation for Sullinger. He wouldn’t be asked to contribute right away as he would be the #3 option in the frontcourt behind JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried. The Nuggets are pretty much settled in at every position and have the option of taking a chance on a guy like Jared Sullinger. If he doesn’t pan out as intended, then the team wouldn’t take that big of a hit long-term. If he even comes close to resembling the dominant player he was at Ohio State, the Denver Nuggets will make out like bandits.
The Boston Celtics at picks #21 and #22 also make sense. With back-to-back picks in the first round, Danny Ainge may believe Sullinger’s upside (despite being red-flagged) is just too enticing to pass up. Jared has a tremendous work ethic that coach Doc Rivers would absolutely love. If he were to fall all the way to Boston, that would motive Sullinger even more. Rivers is quite possibly the perfect coach for Jared as he could harvest his skills over time and get the best out of him night in and night out.
Again, these predictions are based on the premise that Sullinger will indeed fall out of the lottery come draft night. Despite all of the negativity surrounding Jared, he’s just too talented a basketball player to fall past the Boston Celtics at pick #22. I don’t see either Denver or Boston being able to overlook Jared if he is still available when their picks come around.
I guess I got another ladder to climb. It’s nothing new same ole SULLY
— Jared Sullinger (@Jared_Sully0) June 25, 2012
Christopher Walder is a sports blogger and lead editor for Sir Charles in Charge. You may follow him on Twitter @WalderSports