I think we can all agree the Celtics won’t be raising banner 18 in the immediate future, and more likely than not the 2014-15 NBA season will result in another lottery pick come June, regardless of how ardently Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley & Co. argue the contrary. It’s been a year since Danny Ainge traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets, launching the process of stockpiling draft picks and cap-friendly contracts. Since the Celtics failed to cash in those commodities in exchange for fireworks this summer, this season’s preview will have a Wyc Grousbeck theme, focusing on the hodgepodge of C’s pieces in a series we’ll call Asset Management. Next up: Kelly Olynyk.
Olynyk’s run-in with a billboard has been the lasting image of his summer, a hilariously perfect reminder of all the long-haired 23-year-old 7-footer’s flaws — the sign accentuating his limitations both athletically and defensively.
In reality, the past year hasn’t changed opinions much on Olynyk. This is a guy Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge dubbed upon drafting “just a really good complementary player. He’s not a go-to guy, not a star player. He’s like a really good teammate type of player and complements other guys.”
I wasn’t sure how to feel about that then, and I’m not sure how to feel about it now. The Celtics traded up three spots to draft Olynyk, declared him “not a go-to guy, not a star player,” and then watched the Bucks take the most promising player in the draft two spots later. That’s a tough pill to swallow, but to the best of my knowledge Ainge doesn’t own a DeLorean, so we look to the future.
We learned a bit about the Canadian’s exchange rate when Minnesota turned its nose on a Celtics package of Olynyk, Jared Sullinger and multiple first-round picks for Kevin Love, which is to say his value elsewhere in the NBA isn’t what it’s perceived to be in Boston — despite those 36-minute averages of 15.6 points, 9.4 boards and 2.8 dimes.
We saw two sides of Olynyk his rookie season. Prior to the All-Star break, we witnessed a guy who wasn’t a particularly good shooter, rebounder or defender, all fairly important things for 7-foot stretch forwards. In the 26 games after he started in the NBA’s Rising Stars Challenge, Olynyk averaged 18.7 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists per 36 minutes while recording a scintillating 59.6 true shooting percentage. Not too shabby.
But he also averaged 5.6 personal fouls per 36, so his defensive struggles never allowed for such playing time. Olynyk’s shooting and passing ability could still make him “a really good complementary player,” as evidenced by his contributions to an offense that ranked among the league’s best with him and among the worst without him, but the Celtics also allowed an atrocious 108.2 points per 100 possessions with Olynyk manning the middle.
A year later, Olynyk still has the potential to be “a really good teammate type of player,” whatever that means, and that kind of talent for $7.3 million over the next three seasons isn’t such a bad deal, even if fellow 2013 draftees Tim Hardaway Jr. at $4.8 million or Mason Plumlee at $5.1 million seems better. But somewhere along the line the Celtics have to start finding stars in their endless galaxy of lottery picks, and Olynyk isn’t one.
Asset Rating: B
This has been another edition of Asset Management. Check out more Celtics player valuations below.
Asset Management: Jeff Green’s Celtics future
Asset Management: Tyler Zeller’s Celtics future