Better Know a Prospect: Jared Sullinger

[I asked nikkoewan (who probably contributed heavily to our lottery win his pre-lotto odds posts! say thanks!) to do our official Better Know a Prospect on Jared Sullinger, and he delivers! Enjoy. - Rohan]

When talking about Jared Sullinger, the first thing that comes to peoples mind are the words "unathletic", "fat" and "undersized" and while all of these are true, people don't usually buy into the substance over style argument. For the most part, Sully, as he's more commonly called, is a substance over style kind of a guy. Since his HS days, the one thing that always comes up in his scouting reports are the words mature, patient, crafty, below-the-rim, high motor and high basketball IQ - all words that brought him great success both as a top recruit as a HS player and as a Buckeye.
Surely, questions abound on whether Sully's effective play can continue in the next level despite his weaknesses as an athlete compared to his future peers. However, teams that are drafting Sullinger can take solace in the recent success of players with the same questions to their games.


Born in Colmbus, Ohio, Sullinger was no stranger to basketball. His brother, JJ Sullinger played both collegiate (Buckeyes) and professional (overseas) basketball. Sully also won tons of awards in HS and college,most notably as the Big Ten Rookie of the Year and MVP back in 2011.


If we are looking at only stats, then Sully is easily a top-5 talent. He posted one of the best freshman seasons in recent memory (this is also considering competition), posting averages of 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds in 31.7 minutes - numbers which he duplicated in his sophomore season when he averaged 17.5 points, 9.2 rebounds in 30.4 minutes. What makes all of these more impressive is the efficiency with which he creates his points. Sullinger only takes around 11 attempts per game, draws around 6~7 free throws per game while only committing around 2 turnovers per game. All of these equates to an ORTG of 123.9 and an Offensive Win Share total of 8.1 for his two college seasons.

Sully is no slouch as a rebounder as well, posting excellent big men rebounding percentages of 12.4/23.9/18 (Offensive/Defensive/Total) and these are already reduced production compared to his freshman numbers of 14.1/26/20.1. It is well known that one of the most translateable skills from college to pro is rebounding, and surely, Sully will most probably be an impressive rebounder even in the pro ranks.


Low Block

Sully has a very patient and mature post game, one that is way beyond his years. He uses his incredibly strong lower body and low center of gravity to establish deep position. Once he makes the catch, defenders are at his mercy because of the flurry of moves he can unleash on his opponent including a left hook, a right hook, turnaround jumpers, step throughs and up-and-unders. When opponents decide to double him in the post, Sully can past out of the double team very well - a very important trait for any low post scorer. Take all of this and add his patience and maturity to allow the play to unfold before unleashing his first move, Sully becomes a nightmare to defend in the post. He converted around 64.6% of his shots around the rim.

Face Up

One thing often missed is the development of Sully's face-up game. In his sophomore year, he took 40 3-pointers - 28 more than his freshman season - and made 16 of them. Sullinger has also increased his shooting % on jumpers, according to Draft Express. He made 38.5% of his jump shots and scored 0.99 PPP as a jump shooter (DraftExpress) .The fact that Sully's FT% (a good indicator of a player's ability to develop a catch-and-shoot game) lies around 75~77% speaks volumes to his face-up game potential and his future as a "stretch big" (an important part of any good offense in today's NBA). Facing up, Sully has enough ball handling skills to attack his opponent in a straight line drive and has enough upper body strength to take hits and still get a good shot off.

Defensively, Sully was effective as the anchor (along with Aaron Craft) of the 2nd best defense in college basketball. That said, it's worth noting that Sully had an incredibly hard time hedging hard on PnRs due to his mobility issues. However, Sully knows how to use his body very well as a deterrent to the basket. Dropping a few pounds would help mightily in his PnR defense.


As regular readers of my comments may know, I'm a believer of skill set based rather than position based fit. Fact of the matter is that Sully's game fits in well with Davis - both offensively and defensively. Offensively, Sullinger projects to be a player teams can build an offense around (either off the bench or from the starting five) due to his skill set, Davis projects to be strictly a garbage player at the start of his career and as his career progresses, might be better suited on the high post as compared to the low post. Thus, Sully and Davis' projected offensive games seem to mesh well with each other.

With Gordon, Sully's face up game will get a number of high quality looks of a PnR. Whether he makes a good number of them is up to Sully's improvements.

Defensively, what Davis lacks in girth and body strength, Sully more than makes up for it. Sully can guard the bigger and stronger bigs they matchup with, while Davis is free to roam as a weakside shot blocker, emulating his game in Kentucky.

Bottom Line

If Sully ever wants to amount to anything (even into a role player), then he must commit to taking care of his body, maintaining it and keeping it in shape. Questions about his defensive game translating into the NBA calls for him to have a leaner, more mobile body while maintaining his strength. Teams hopeful of drafting him should keep this in mind. For Hornets fans who still have nightmares of the Lakers series back in 2011, the question that begs an answer is - are you ready to accept another undersized yet skillful big to be part of the franchise future? Burn it out in the comment section.

Update #1: Sullinger has a medically flagged back. There is a bulging disk in his back caused by tightness in his quads and hamstrings. Sully knows about this and is working on maintaining his flexibility by going to doctors specifically back and spine specialists, deep tissue massage and yoga. Personally (after my initial overreaction), I don't think this should be a deterrent. Another thing to keep an eye on is his supposed difference in leg length (which can cause knee and back problems). Again speculation.

Update #2: after the NO/WAS trade, I think the chances that what Demps/Monty consider as BPA is a big. Keep an eye out on that.

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