They used to call it one of the best draft classes of the last 25 years. Now, it’s looking more and more like Anthony Davis… and then everybody else. Still, this Thursday, the 2012 NBA Draft will bring hope, and hopefully new talent to some teams that desperately need it.
As we do every year, Dime will be holding you down with mock drafts, player interviews and diaries (you should check out Dion Waiters‘ draft diary), and we will also be bringing you draft profiles for every potential prospect deemed worthy. With this year’s crop of talent, that list is long. Our last profile was on the future of Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Today, we’re looking at Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger.
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Best Case: Zach Randolph
Worst Case: Josh Harrellson
Final Comparison: Carlos Boozer
Ratings (on a scale of 1-10, 1 being overseas talent and 10 being NBA Rookie Of The Year)
Jared Sullinger averaged around a double-double in his two seasons in Columbus, yet that’s not enough for the NBA Draft projections.
The points and boards are nullified by many for his lack of athleticism. Sullinger stands at 6-foot-9, which is too small for the lack of explosiveness he possess.
In college, Sullinger had trouble scoring over taller, and sometimes more athletic post players. Case and point: the Final Four against Kansas. Sullinger finished the night with his typical double-double, but a closer look shows just how difficult that was. Sullinger struggled and was frustrated by the 7-1 Jeff Whitey on the offensive end. The Jayhawk junior center, one of the nation’s top shotblockers, ended the night with seven rejections, with a few coming off Sullinger’s shots.
It won’t be easier moving forward. In attention to his limited explosiveness, is how he will match up defensively. Sullinger is a true post player, however he could become lost. He is not one of these new types of power forwards that can stretch the floor, especially in pick-and-rolls. Also, Sullinger defending the pick-and-roll could be a huge issue.
In all fairness, Sullinger is not a flashy, highlight reel player. He’s a fundamentally sound post player. He’s not going to wow GMs and scouts with his athleticism. He is going to make his money in other areas of the game.
Sullinger makes up for his lack of athleticism with a very sound, mature skill set. He’s a true post player with a frame that is tough to control in the post. He is a very physical player and has no problem throwing all of his weight into defenders, in order to get the best position possible. When he gets the ball in the post, he can force his way into the paint with lower-body strength and exceptional footwork. He also has a wide variety of post moves, which are difficult to stop, including his ability to face up.
What he can do to make up for his explosiveness is fight his way into the lane, get fouled and head to the line, where he shot 77 percent (a seven percent increase) in 2011-2012. Sullinger’s shooting stroke is improved and an area that can be overlooked.
In his sophomore campaign, Sullinger expanded his role on the offensive end from the paint to behind the arc. He was able to knock down 40 percent from three (16-for-40) as a sophomore. While he can score the ball, Sullinger has shown at times he can be a talented and willing passer. When he saw double teams at Ohio State, he found open teammates. How many double teams he’ll see in the NBA is yet to be determined.
The offensive skill set is impressive, but rebounding is his strong suit and what he can bring to an NBA team. This is the area where Sullinger can help a team. He may not have the athleticism, but he has the size and footwork to fight for position and the ability to read the way the ball comes off the rim like very few can.
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His upside wasn’t one of the strongest entering the draft and it certainly didn’t improve over this past week. The 20-year-old was red-flagged last week with back issues. Although his family and agent have dismissed these injuries as not serious, it didn’t help that Sullinger fought through injuries last season. The red flag will leave teams skeptical, even willing to pass, but it’s not a death sentence.
DeJuan Blair was a projected lottery pick in 2010, but fell into the second round after he was red-flagged with what some thought were knee problems. Blair has proven many wrong, but unlike Sullinger, he didn’t come from the same school as Greg Oden.
Even before the red flag, Sullinger didn’t really have a huge upside. He already has a matured game, with strong post moves and great rebounding. His athleticism and quickness could improve, but not much. Teams should know what they’re getting with Sullinger when they draft him.