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NBA Boston Celtics Jared Sullinger 2016

Celtics Make Jared Sullinger An Unrestricted Free Agent

The Boston Celtics wanted to get something of value back for their 21st pick of the 2012 NBA Draft, but apparently they haven’t been able to find anyone willing to help them out with their no longer restricted free agent Jared Sullinger. Either that or Sullinger and his agent have a vastly overinflated view of his value after seeing all of the overly generous deals other free agents have been signing this summer.

The 24-year-old Sullinger still gets knocked for his apparent lack of conditioning, the failure to improve on his three-point shooting and gets questioned about whether a traditional big man like him still has a place in today’s NBA.

Wes Howard and CelticsBlog Staff took on the question of Sullinger’s future with the Celtics after the season ended and they didn’t see the center back with the team next season.

Jeff Clark: Let him walk. Sorry to be so blunt, but I can’t imagine that he’ll be worth whatever he’ll get on his next contract. He’s skilled, no doubt. The guy can rebound, and at times he can score and defend bigger guys in the post. But he hasn’t improved his outside shot enough, he’s not versatile enough for today’s game, and yes, I’m concerned about his conditioning.

Wes Howard: I don’t think that Boston should spend what the market likely dictates it will cost to keep Sully around. However, I do want to point out that he brings a skill that no one else on our roster has been able to duplicate consistently over the past couple of years. Sully has repeatedly demonstrated that he is able to handle large, strong, bruising centers down low. He always seems to do well against Dwight Howard, against Andre Drummond, and against Pau Gasol, to name a few. In short, he does well against more “traditional” centers, on both ends of the court.

Kevin O’Connor: Jared Sullinger is better than he gets credit for. But he should also be better than he actually is. He obviously needs to get in better conditioning. He knows that. But once he does that, he also needs to extend his range to the NBA three-point shot. I’m not sure he’s interested in that based on his recent appearance on The Vertical Podcast with Chris Mannix. And it’s too bad because I think Sullinger has All-Star-level talent that will ultimately go unrealized unless he makes strides soon.

These Celtics Blog discussions were held before the draft and before the Celtics nabbed All-Star center Al Horford in free agency. Currently Boston is awash in big men and didn’t have room to keep Sullinger. Without a trade partner, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge had little choice but to renounce his restricted free agent if only to keep him from picking up his qualifying offer.

Unless Ainge can create a roster spot, he’s got no where to put Sullinger or Zeller and every GM in the NBA knows it. The scariest thing that could happen in Boston is both restricted free agents pick up their qualifying offers sending the Celtics into full on scramble mode to make room for Brown and Yabusele.

Teams in the NBA tend to run like lemmings towards the latest style of play that seems to work, but the demise of the traditional center has become grossly overstated. If a team doesn’t have someone that can defend a traditional center, they will be in at least as much trouble as those teams that can’t defend the three-point line. Drummond, Howard, Gasol, Valanciunas, they’ll still be around next season and they aren’t alone.

Last season Sullinger averaged 10.3 points and 8.3 rebounds in 23.6 minutes over 81 regular season games. He pulled in 10.6 percent of the available offensive boards and 27 percent of the available defensive rebounds. In other words, he is a pretty effective glass cleaner.

Based on the early stages of free agency, Sullinger could command anywhere between $10-18 million a season, but most of those once available dollars have already been committed to other players and Sullinger might be forced to look at something closer to mid level exception money now? He is going to get calls, but his agent has his work cut out for him now.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.