Kelly Olynyk was selected with the 13th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft by the Dallas Mavericks, and was immediately traded to the Boston Celtics for Lucas Nogueira and two future second-round draft selections. After an impressive Summer League, where the 7-footer from Canada averaged 19.0 points per game, along with 7.8 rebounds per game, he was signed to his rookie contract with the Boston Celtics. After his Summer League debut, some even went so far to compare him to future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki.
Out of the gate, the season started off slowly for Olynyk, but as the season began to cool off, the former Gonzaga Bulldog began to heat up.
For the season as a whole, Olynyk has averaged 7.7 points per game, 4.9 rebounds per game, all while being bounced in and out of Brad Stevens’ starting lineup. In the month of March alone, Kelly raised his averages to 9.6 points per game, along with 5.5 rebounds.
While he may not be consistently grabbing double-digit rebounds per contest, averaging more than five per game is a solid number, especially for a big man who isn’t restricted to hanging under the rim.
In some games, Olynyk has flat out taken over, like on Jan. 17 against the rival Los Angeles Lakers, where Olynyk went for 25 points, five rebounds, seven assists, and two steals. Olynyk has actually broken the double-digit scoring mark 16 times in his rookie season.
Not bad for a player that many predicted to be a bust.
What sets Olynyk apart from most 7-footers is his ability to step out from the paint and have a reliable jump shot. Olynyk flashes a .448 field goal percentage, and a .332 3-point percentage, both numbers higher than fellow rookie standouts Michael Carter-Williams and Victor Oladipo (and yes, I know they play different positions, but the overall point remains).
With long arms, and height to see over the defense, Olynyk is also a well developed passer for a big man, averaging 1.5 assists per game, a large lead on fellow rookie big men such as Steven Adams, Alex Len, and Mason Plumlee. Joakim Noah, who is widely regarded as the premier passing big in the NBA, didn’t even average 1.5 assists per game his rookie season. That passing ability has been more than prevalent while Olynyk is on the court, as it allows the Celtics to run more plays through Olynyk at center, giving him more opportunities to score and make plays.
Maybe I’m getting a little ahead of myself, comparing a rookie to Joakim Noah, but at the rate that Olynyk has grown in just one season, maybe it’s not too far off.
With his polished skill set, you could even make a case that Olynyk is the best rookie big man in the league, with players like Brooklyn’s Mason Plumlee chasing behind him.
Olynyk has shown some great abilities in his first season in the Association, including shooting from deep, and some of the better rebounding and passing skills of big men to enter the league in the past few years. He was considered one of the more NBA-ready prospects coming out of the NCAA this year, and Olynyk has proved that statement true, and has been one of the standout rookies in the league. Olynyk deserves to be one of the 5 men named to the 2014 All-Rookie First Team, and come June, we’ll see if he’s on that list.
Shawn McFarland covers the NBA for HoopsHabit.com, and is a member of the PBWA