Ohio State - Freshman
6' 8" , 250 lbs , 18 Years old
Stats after 21 games - 30 minutes, 17.8 points (57.6%), 10.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.5 blocks
Draft projection: Top 10 - I have him as #5 in my mock draft.
NBA Position: Power Forward
Jared Sullinger has a basketball pedigree. His father (Satch Sullinger) is a High School coach at Columbus Northland in the Sullinger's home town of Columbus, OH. His two older brothers both played for major College basketball programs. Julian, 6 years older than Jared, played forward for Kent State; and JJ (James), 10 years older than Jared, played at home town Ohio State. Jared gets his toughness and rough and tumble style from growing up and playing against his older brothers; but he gets his great fundamentals, footwork and intensity from his High School coach (and Father), Satch.
Sullinger was named Ohio's "Mr. Basketball" his Junior and Senior years at Columbus Northland. He was also named the 2010 Naismith Award winner as the national high school player of the year. That same year, his dad won the Naismith coach of the year. It is the first time a father and son have won the awards in the same year.
Anyone who has played the NBA Lottery Mock Draft on ESPN knows that Jared Sullinger comes up as the Wizards pick more often than not; so let's get to know him a bit better after the jump.
Jared Sullinger is a 6'9" Power Forward prospect from Ohio State. He has solid length and a wing span of about 7'1". A far cry from the usual bean poles you see playing College basketball these days, Sullinger is an absolute load inside. I don't know precisely what Sullinger weighs - most sites say he's between 260 - 280 - but I would estimate he's around 265 pounds. He has worked extremely hard on his conditioning and his body. Out of High School, he was 280 pounds and pudgy. Now he looks like he's got a solid NBA body. He might be able to turn another 10 pounds into muscle (that's actually kinda scary), but he's come a long way towards answering the questions about his conditioning and weight.
The things that stand out to me right away are the fact that Sullinger is not an exceptional athlete and he's slightly undersized, standing somewhere around 6-8 or 6-9. He's not as quick or explosive as compared to some of the athletic Power Forwards in the NBA. But what he lacks in athleticism, he more than makes up for with his pure raw power and his sublime skillset.
Sullinger is a physical player, putting his strength, and his wide body to good use on the Basketball court. He's mostly a below the rim type player. Like Enes Kanter, Sullinger is an old time throwback post player with strength, power and legitimate low post moves. His most valuable asset is .... well.... his rear end. Or more accurately, his incredibly strong legs, hips and torso and his immense bulk. Once he establishes good post position, with his low center of gravity and lower body strength, no one will be able to move him out. Once he's in the post, he has a ton of options - - but he almost always starts looking for an even easier shot - backing his man down.... He rarely just shoots the ball when he catches it; preferring to root, grind and bang his way closer to the basket. After all, a baby hook is easier than a jump shot, and a lay up is even easier than a baby hook.
One area where Jared Sullinger does show off a bit of athleticism is in transition. As big as he is, he runs the floor extremely well. He surprised me on a couple of occasions on the break with his ability to soar in for a powerful dunk. He may just be one of those players that needs a bit of a running start to get into the air - like the old Superman TV Show where Superman is played by George Reeves. He shows this (jumping, soaring) ability on occasion on the break as well on plays where he has time to take a couple steps - alley oops, drive-and-dish, etc. So to say he plays below the rim is only partially correct.
Sullinger has been an incredibly efficient and consistent scorer so far in College (63% TSP) where it's not easy to play inside. It speaks volumes that Sullinger is so proficient a low post scorer in College, where teams pack into the lane, and are still able to recover to the shorter College 3-point line. I've been especially impressed by the fact that he seems to bring his "A" game against ranked opponents. Against Florida he had 26 points and 10 rebounds; at Indiana he had 19 and 9; and he absolutely destroyed Illinois with 27 points and 19 rebounds.
Frequently, Sullinger is battling a crowd inside, and he still manages to over power 2 or 3 guys at a time. The physicality he learned banging with his older brothers is probably helping him now.
He's got a very polished back-to-the-basket post game. He's skilled with all the usual post moves (drop steps, double pivots, spins, etc...) and can go equally well from the left post or right. He's got a very nice jump-hook shot as well as a nice turn around jumper. He is adept at finishing with either hand, which makes defending him even more difficult. Unlike a lot of other young players, Sullinger can still score if the defender takes away his first move - he has a number of counter-moves and almost always gets his shot off. It helps that he has incredible foot work and excellent body control. He uses his body to create space and angles to get his shot off.
Lately teams have resorted to double teaming him - really out of necessity, because he's unstoppable one-on-one in the post. When the double team comes, Sullinger has been able to either quickly move away from the double team and score anyway - or pass out to an open teammate. There's a reason there are four Buckeyes hitting over 40% from the 3-point line; and the biggest part of it has to do with the fact that Sullinger draws so much attention in the post. Sullinger averages about 2 assists per game, but if they gave out Hockey type assists he would triple that.
Another big aspect to Sullinger's game is the fact that he draws a ton of fouls. He is so strong and physical that he frequently finishes even through the heaviest contact. I've seen him power up to score with a guy draped on his back. He single handedly gets entire front lines in foul trouble. He gets to the line at an incredible 9.5 times per 40 (pace adjusted). Once at the line, Sullinger is a very good Free Throw shooter (72%). He has excellent mechanics, with a nice soft touch. Although I don't think I've ever seen Sullinger take a jump shot from more than about 8 feet - it's reasonable to assume, based on his excellent Free Throw mechanics, that he could one day develop a very nice mid-range game; and possible pick-and-pop capabilities.
Speaking of pick-and-pop, although Ohio State doesn't run much pick-and-roll action, Sullinger does set nice solid screens. Again, getting back to the fact his father is a coach, Sulinger seems to do everything fundamentally sound. Given the fact that he has incredible hands, it's safe to assume that he could be a very good pick-and-roll player with the right kind of point guard. Playing with a Steve Nash or Chris Paul or Deron Williams type Point (ie: a great P-n-R PG) would really increase Sullinger's value to an NBA team.
On the defensive end, Sullinger holds his position in the post very well. The same skills and attributes that help him on offense, help on defense when he's defending one-on-one in the post. He's almost impossible to back down. He's got great footwork and a good solid defensive stance. Although he doesn't block a lot of shots (0.7 per 40 PA), he's able to bother and contest shots in the post. Unfortunately there are not a lot of low post Power Forwards in the NBA - and most of the time, Sullinger will be asked to defend more athletic, perimeter oriented big men. With his lack of lateral quickness, he may struggle. He has certainly looked uncomfortable whenever he's been asked to defend on the perimeter in College. He can be beat off the dribble, so as a result he gives too big a cushion. It hasn't hurt him in College, where big men rarely have a polished perimeter game - but it will be a big liability in the NBA.
Sullinger is a very good rebounder, averaging over 13 per 40 minutes (pace adjusted).. and especially good on the defensive glass. It's obvious that he was taught the fundamentals well. He actually boxes out and uses two hands. He doesn't rebound well out of his immediate area, but he seems to have that natural ability that all good rebounders have to predict where the ball will come off the rim. He gets great position, gets his already wide body even wider and grabs the ball with both hands. As strong as he is, it's extremely rare that anyone is able to take a rebound away from him. Combine those great hands with terrific positioning, strength, anticipation and timing, and you get an excellent rebounder.
Being around basketball his whole life, Jared Sullinger seems to have a great feel for the game. He has the court awareness and Basketball IQ of a coaches son. He's got a terrific attitude and seems to genuinely love playing basketball. I frequently see him pumping up his teammates, talking on the court and in the huddles - and I imagine he's a natural leader in that respect. His intangibles, always tough to measure from afar, seem to be off the charts. His focus and intensity level remain high throughout the game. The weight he's lost from his Senior year in High School talk to his work ethic. The way he plays on the court, always knowing where he is, where his teammates are, the fundamentals he displays - also speak volumes about his Basketball IQ.
I've talked about some of the negatives. He's undersized for an NBA PF - and as a result he gets his shot blocked fairly regularly. That will only get worse in the NBA where he will be playing against bigger, taller more athletic players. As smart a player as he is, he may be able to partially mitigate his defensive liabilities with good positioning and awareness; but it is still a major concern.
Body wise, he reminds me of Kevin Seraphin - except Sullinger has a much more polished offensive post game. Sullinger has a lot of Elton Brand in his offensive game, and he should be ready to step right in and immediately contribute post scoring and rebounding for any team that drafts him.
Rook's Mock Draft
1. Terrence Jones
2. Perry Jones
3. Kyrie Irving
4. Enes Kanter
5. Jared Sullinger
6. Harrison Barnes
7. Kemba Walker
8. Jonas Valanciunas
9. Donatas Motiejunas
10. John Henson