Kelly Olynyk, Center
7-0, 240 lbs
Age: 21 (Born April 19, 1991)
Backing up an NBA prospect at a mid-major NCAA program isn’t ideal for a player with NBA aspirations.
Kelly Olynyk of Gonzaga found himself in such a situation playing behind current Los Angeles Lakers rookie center Robert Sacre. Olynyk decided to redshirt his junior year in 2011-12 and rededicate himself to working on both his body and game.
The result is that this season, Olynyk has taken the college world by storm and shot up NBA draft boards. Olynyk is now expected to be among several different draft boards as a mid- to late first-round pick. This is a surprising turnaround for a player who wasn’t expected to be drafted.
This season, Olynyk has transformed from a player who was more content to take jumpers and changed into a dynamic post scorer. Olynyk has a variety of moves from facing up to posting up defenders to get a bucket. Far from being a big stiff, Olynyk moves exceptionally well with or without the ball for a 7-0, 240-pound center. Olynyk is one of the most efficient scorers in all of college basketball, shooting a remarkable 66 percent from the field and 82 percent from the free-throw line. Olynyk has been one of the most consistent players in the NCAA this year, scoring at least 10 points in all but one game this year.
For all his strengths, Olynyk does possess some glaring weaknesses. Although he moves well, Olynyk is not particularly fast and doesn’t have much a vertical leap. As a consequence, Olynyk tends to struggle as a defender and isn’t a particularly good rebounder. Olynyk averages fewer than seven rebounds a game and less than one blocked shot per game.
Turnovers are also a big problem for Olynyk. Olynyk averages 2.5 turnovers per game. These stem from over-dribbling and poor passing. Olynyk will not have anyone thinking he’s the second coming of Bill Walton with his passing ability.
Another issue for Olynyk is playing in the West Coast Conference. He gets to feast on lesser competition, players who will not be playing in the NBA.
Gonzaga has only faced three ranked teams to date this season. How Olynyk does in the NCAA Tournament and how far he leads Gonzaga will go a long way into possibly making Olynyk a lottery pick.
NBA Ceiling: Brad Miller
Best NBA Fit: Milwaukee Bucks
The Milwaukee Bucks need a backup center with offensive talent like Olynyk. Olynyk’s offensive skills are sorely needed on a team where too many of the points are manufactured by the backcourt. The Bucks are a young team with a bright future who can integrate a player like Olynyk off the bench into the lineup. Already close to being a finished project, Olynyk is a player who can step into being in a lineup from day one.
Kelly Olynyk has been one of the most sensational stories in college basketball this season. His rise from not being on the NBA radar to one of the top stars in college is an inspiring story for players lacking playing time. The coming months will see whether Olynyk will continue to improve his game to the point of being a possible NBA lottery pick.
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