In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m the Mikki Moore of NBA Draft analysts. Had I been alive and capable of writing, I probably would have bashed the Chicago Bulls for drafting Michael Jordan and proclaimed the Portland Trail Blazers the champions of the 1984 NBA Draft for stealing Sam Bowie with the No. 2 pick.
My advice on draft picks is often misguided, as you could tell if you searched any of my pieces from when the Celtics initially drafted Avery Bradley. I hurled every insult I could muster at Bradley, and at Danny Ainge for drafting him, and I even contemplated (just briefly, nothing too serious) visiting Ainge’s house with a lighter in one hand and a bucket of kerosene in the other. No, I’m not rational. And as Bradley continues to prove, my reactions can be entirely wrong. As a 21-year old in his third year removed from high school, Bradley played an integral role in waking the Celtics from their first-half doldrums.
So when I tell you I spent 10 minutes earlier this morning shopping online for a Jared Sullinger jersey because I’m thoroughly convinced he’s a better version of Glen Davis, with a ceiling similar to Kevin Love’s, chances are that Sullinger’s back will flare up at some point within the next month or two and everything I write gushing about him today will soon look crazier than Metta World Peace. Because I’m often wrong about the draft and my feelings about Sullinger are so deeply positive, there’s a strong possibility he gains 40 pounds before his first regular season game and can’t even dunk by the time the All-Star Break arrives. Or while crossing the street on his way to the TD Garden for his introductory press conference Monday, he’ll probably get hit by a Mitch Kupchak-driven motorcycle. Or, well, anything else to solidify my status as a miserable NBA draft guide.
The Celtics just used the No. 21 pick to draft a 6-foot-10 (okay, 6-foot-9) bruiser with three-point touch who spent the past two years dominating the entire NCAA. I understand Sullinger has a herniated disc which may or may not require surgery at some point, BUT DON’T PISS ON MY PARADE! At No. 21, teams just don’t get players with that type of size, that type of skill and a resume that stretches longer than Anthony Davis’ wingspan. I attended one of Sullinger’s high school games three years ago. One of his teammates was headed to Ohio State with him. At least another one or two were also committed to Division 1 schools. Even with all that talent on his team, Sullinger received double-teams throughout the entire game. When he didn’t have the ball, too. He was that dominant. And that dominance translated to the Big Ten. And doctors spotted his red flag, and Sullinger slipped. And the Celtics scooped him at No. 21, and — depending on his health (a qualifier you might hear a lot over the next few months) — they might have landed the biggest steal in the entire draft.
A team that has starved for rebounding and low-post scoring for the better part of the past 20 years might have just found both, in the latter half of the first round. Sure, Sullinger has limitations. He’ll never be blamed for stealing a nickel off the top of the backboard, and he’s probably a few dozen Jolly Ranchers above his ideal weight. He’s not the quickest at defending the pick-and-roll. He’s undersized if you count by inches. But he possesses long arms, his hands are magnets and his touch is softer than those white, puffy clouds look on a beautiful summer day. He scored and rebounded efficiently in college, he hardly ever turned the ball over and he did all of that with a high usage rate, while also — despite his defensive shortcomings — anchoring one of the NCAA’s top defenses. If the NBA Draft were all about production, Sullinger would have gone in the top 5. But the NBA draft is about projecting how prospects will play as professionals, and that’s why Sullinger dropped, because he’s a little slow and he has health issues, and maybe, if I’m improbably right, he’ll become Ainge’s latest stroke of genius.
You can fear Sullinger’s back issue, you can thank it, or, like me, you can do both. Without it, he never would have dropped to the Celtics. With it, he’s a few bad pains away from surgery. The NBA Draft is about a slew of general managers trying to predict who will make their teams better, and I’m convinced Sullinger will help the Celtics significantly.
Then again, I’m the Mikki Moore of NBA Draft analysts. It’s still the second quarter and I just fouled out.