As the NBA fantasy season reaches its regular season midpoint, team GMs looking to shore up the depth and breadth of their rosters focus more heavily on developing their rookies.
Coach Doc Rivers of the Boston Celtics has been frustrated with his underperforming, veteran roster. They are just 20-20 and have had difficulty putting away lesser opponents. In addition, the C’s are 29th in the Association in rebounding.
In order to inject some toughness and glass-cleaning ability into the Celt’s rotation, Rivers has been giving more burn to 20-year-old rookie Jared Sullinger. The 2X consensus First Team All-American at Ohio State was selected by GM Danny Ainge with the 21st overall pick in last year’s draft after declaring at the end of his sophomore season.
The 6’9”, 270-pound power forward was initially expected to be a high lottery pick, but dropped after teams discovered some back issues. In a few seasons Sullinger could wind up being regarded as the steal of the 2012 draft.
Sullinger has competed in all 40 of Boston’s games so far. While his season averages of 6.1 ppg and 6 rpg in 20 mpg are modest, he is coming on strong of late. In January, Sullinger is averaging 7.9 ppg and 8.5 rpg in 25.6 mpg over ten games. In this same stretch, he is shooting 51.5% from the field and has 3 games in double figure points and 4 games in double figure rebounds. Sullinger has season highs of 16 points (2X) and 16 boards.
Sullinger’s glaring downside is that he leads the NBA in fouls per 48 minutes, so staying on the floor can be a challenge. However, Coach Rivers has expressed confidence in his mature, rookie and that has translated into minutes when it matters. Look for this young PF’s production to increase as he becomes more accustomed to Boston’s complex defensive sets and the speed of the pro game.