The NBA Draft is a process that sometimes causes front office executives to over-think things. Case in point: Kelly Olynyk. Olynyk was indisputably the most polished low post scorer in an extremely weak draft. So why did 12 players, including four big men, get selected ahead of the Gonzaga product? Short arms.
Read that last sentence again.
Despite the indisputable fact that Kelly Olynyk is a legitimate 7-footer with incredible range and the ability to both post up and face up, he nearly fell completely out of the lottery due the fact that his wingspan is “only” 6’10″. Even more perplexing? Olynyk’s production in his junior season at Gonzaga, a season which saw him average 17.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.1 blocked shots per game, outpointed every big man selected ahead of him in the lottery on draft night.
The fall for Olynyk may be a blessing in disguise. In a draft class as weak as this one is perceived to be, situation and minutes can often dictate player development more than anything else. And in the case of Kelly Olynyk, is there a rookie in a better position to produce big numbers immediately? The Boston Celtics have completely gutted their roster in an effort to bottom out and retool around Rajon Rondo, a similar strategy to the one general manager Danny Ainge employed in 2007, when the Celts were able to eventually cash in all of their assets to flank Paul Pierce with two other superstars. What does that mean for Olynyk? Big minutes and heavy usage. Olynyk figures to start at center immediately for the Celtics and play a big time role on offense (someone on this squad has to get buckets, right?) Not bad, considering he’ll be running pick-and-pops with one of the elite assist-men in the sport in Rajon Rondo.
Of course, it isn’t certain that Kelly Olynyk can 100 percent produce and make good on the NBA level. But early on, all signs point to him being able to overcome his minuscule wingspan and reach his potential. Olynyk rated as the No. 1 rookie in the summer league, according to NBA.com. His numbers were tremendous, as he posted averages of 18 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.8 steals while shooting 57.8 percent from the floor in 24.2 minutes of action per contest. It isn’t just numbers that have Boston fans surprisingly giddy about a dude named Kelly, it was the manner in which Olynyk produced. Not one opposing big could match Olynyk’s advanced low-post game and he was virtually automatic on long jumpers. In addition to that, his ability to handle the ball on the perimeter has many thinking he possesses the versatility to play both frontcourt spots when the games actually count.
Now, this is summer league. One needs not be reminded of the legends of NBA Summer League past (Josh Selby, anyone?). But considering the fact that Olynyk piggy-backed his impressive final season at Gonzaga with a terrific showing in Orlando, there is certainly a pattern of success here for Boston’s newest big man.
We’ve entered a new era of basketball in Beantown and the Boston Celtics probably aren’t going to win very many games next season. But there is a plan of action taking place and one that has recently been a proven success for this franchise. Step one will be acquiring assets and the Celtics may have struck gold with Kelly Olynyk. His fit on this roster and advanced skill set when combined with the high usage he is likely to receive while playing with one of the game’s top point guards should all factor into making him the favorite for the 2013-14 Rookie of the Year award.