Better Know A 2012 NBA Draft Pick: Jared Sullinger

Mar 31, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes forward Jared Sullinger (0) drives against Kansas Jayhawks forward Thomas Robinson (0) and guard Elijah Johnson (15) during the second half in the semifinals of the 2012 NCAA men's basketball Final Four at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE

Editor's Note: The 2012 NBA Draft is just around the corner, and that means it's time to start looking at this year's prospects. We've enlisted the help of a couple of our community's top draftnicks to break down as many prospects as possible from this year's class, whether they're high-lottery picks, potential first-round sliders or sleepers that could make an impact on a team from the second round. Today: Ohio State big man Jared Sullinger by pantslessyoda1.

PREVIOUSLY: Bradley Beal, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Thomas Robinson, Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond, Anthony Davis.

Team: Ohio State

Expected draft position: Mid-lottery

College career recap: Jared Sullinger came to Ohio State in 2010 as the reigning Naismith Prep Player of the Year and didn't disappoint, earning two All-American nods and a reputation as one of the most dominant scorers and rebounders in the NCAA. He struggled a bit in the NCAA tournament when he attempted to score against longer, more athletic players, but still managed to rebound well.

For more information on his freshman year, as well as what was being said about him as a prospect at this time last year, check out Rook's great breakdown.

Basic Statistics Per 40 Pace Adjusted (via Draft Express)

Year

GP

Min

Pts

FGA

FG%

2PtA

2P%

3PtA

3P%

FTA

FT%

Off

Def

TOT

Asts

Stls

Blks

TOs

PFs

2010/11

37

31.7

22.6

14.6

54.1

14.1

55.0

0.4

25.0

9.5

70.4

4.7

8.7

13.4

1.5

1.3

0.7

2.1

3.2

2011/12

37

30.4

22.8

15.5

51.9

14.1

53.1

1.4

40.0

8.0

76.8

4.1

7.9

12.0

1.6

1.5

1.4

2.5

3.7

Best attributes: Sullinger is a beast of a player who will immediately produce in the NBA. Sullinger possesses excellent strength, footwork, and touch, and will be able to score both in the paint and on pick and pops. He will most likely lead his team in made free throws. Sullinger could struggle a bit in the NBA once he runs into longer, more athletic players who are more capable of matching up with his wide frame, quick feet, and relatively short stature, but he'll still be able to get points in the paint at the next level even if he gets his shot blocked a little bit more often. Also, what he'll lose in layups, he'll gain in open jump shots as a result of the drive and kick NBA offense and the extra free throw attempts defenders closing out on his still-improving jumper will bring him.

Sullinger is also a tremendous rebounder, averaging 12.7 per pace adjusted 40 minutes over his college career. The idea that rebounding translates to the NBA is a bit of a cliche and isn't always the case -- look at Glen Davis -- but it's a safe bet that Sullinger's tenacity and width allow him to own the glass in the NBA. He should be especially strong on the defensive glass, where boxing out and solid leverage are extremely important.

Biggest weakness: Sullinger's weaknesses are all tied to one thing: his body. Although he lost weight and doesn't have the reputation for laziness that a lot of guys who eat their way out of the NBA have, he's still heavy for a power forward and too short to anchor a defense from the middle. Possibly as a result of carrying extra weight, he fouled a lot in college and his rates of blocks and steals indicate a fairly average athlete, limiting his upside as a pro defender. That said, Elton Brand and Glen Davis play excellent defense with a similar body, plus Sullinger was a solid defender in college. Even though he's likely play power forward in the pros, if he follows the career path of similar players, he'll most likely experience his greatest success guarding centers while a long, athletic power forward protects the rim.

Why he'd fit in D.C.: He's perfect for the Wizards' offense. The team as currently constructed can run all over the court, but can struggle to score when the pace of the game slows down. John Wall is a pass-first point guard with a shaky jumper, Jordan Crawford is inconsistent, Nene isn't particularly assertive and Kevin Seraphin, despite his late season run as a scorer, isn't reliable enough to be the focus of Washington's half-court attack. Sullinger could easily pick and pop with Wall, score on the blocks or slash from the perimeter and draw fouls when he's guarded by centers, solving a lot of the Wizards' offensive woes almost single-handedly.

He's also a solid passer and good screener with the potential to be an elite one. It's very easy to imagine him and Seraphin using bone-crushing screens to pound already-overmatched point guards into submission, making John Wall's life a lot easier, as well as freeing up spot up shooters like Chris Singleton and Cartier Martin.

Sullinger might even fit the Wizards defensively. As mentioned, he's not big enough to play in the middle in the pros, but he played on an elite defensive team at Ohio State. That said, Jan Vesely and Kevin Seraphin are long enough to protect the rim next to him,. Sullinger also has the wide base necessary to deny post position to large centers, which will save Nene a beating.

In short, as far as skillset, role, and mentality, the only other players even in his league when it comes to complementing the current Wizards are Bradley Beal and Anthony Davis.

Why he might not: The Wizards had eight -- nine if you think Chris Singleton should try playing as a small-ball four -- power forwards on their roster at the end of the 2012 season. Of those eight players, only four (Vesely, Trevor Booker, Nene, and Seraphin) will most likely be on the team next fall, and all of them can play at least one other position regularly. That said, adding another 6'9'' guy who can't play small forward wouldn't make sense from a chemistry or morale standpoint, since at least one of those guys would need to be traded to free up minutes for Sullinger.

His rate of fouls in college is also a potential red flag that he won't be able to play more than 25 or 30 minutes a night in the NBA his first year. After that, though, he's someone who will deserve and most likely demand 32+ minutes a night, meaning that one of the Wizard's young bigs is going to have to be traded.

There's also the potential that Sullinger winds up being an inefficient scorer in the pros. He's more explosive than he's given credit for, frequently finishing at the rim with powerful dunks, but he could still struggle in the NBA when he has to deal with more length. Elton Brand, Carlos Boozer and Brandon Bass are his best comparables as far as the type of player NBA teams will hope they're getting, and they all shot better on two pointers in college than Sullinger. Some of this could be a result of fatigue or a cold streak at the end of the season, but it's still something to keep in mind. A player who can get the Wizards 18 and 9 with a true shooting percentage in the high 50s would help the team a lot, but they're just treading water if they get someone who gives them 18 and 9 with a true shooting percentage in the low 50s.

One of the most common mistakes among player evaluators is the tendency to compare players in a vacuum, focusing only on production without regard to the value of that production. There are a lot of good power forwards in the NBA. A lot. According to Basketball-Reference, there are 57 players who are forwards between 6'8'' and 6'11'', played more than 200 minutes, and had a PER of 15 or better last year. Nineteen of them played over 1,000 minutes and had a PER over 20, which is generally considered all-star production. That's a lot of potential power forwards who can give you a lot of points, rebounds and assists. Why waste a top draft pick on a guy who won't be that much of an upgrade from his typical bench counterpart?

Verdict: Draft him if you're picking outside of the top three, and even then you might want to give him a chance. Sullinger has his share of red flags, most notably his size and relatively mediocre two point percentage, but he's as NBA ready as a power forward can get. He's not as good as a young Elton Brand and won't be that kind of player, but Brandon Bass if he was three inches taller is a pretty safe bet. Sullinger might not have the upside of an Andre Drummond or the flashiness of a wing scorer like Harrison Barnes, but he's a winner with a high skill level and a good head on his shoulders who won't embarrass a GM or coach.

The level of parity among NBA power forwards is troubling, but Sullinger should still be worth it. Many of these players put up great stats because the things they do (hustle for rebounds, score off of putbacks and cuts to the basket rewarded by good passers and hitting the occasional jumper) iimmediately show up in the box score, while the things they don't (space the floor, play good defense, cover guards on switches) won't affect PER. Sullinger will be able to bring the same basic production as a Brandon Bass or a David Lee, but with the added bonus of providing more of the intangibles you'd want from the position.

His greatest weakness -- his height and mobility -- will be covered by the players around him, while his strengths will reinforce and be reinforced by his teammates' if he winds up in Washington.

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