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The Jared Sullinger Project


Now I'm not going to claim to be a draft expert. I'm not a habitual NCAA watcher. I don't have a college team, I watch games here and there, but ofcourse like most basketball (and sports) fans march madness is a given. So what I'm going to speak on is not based on extensive personal experience but a partial combination of personal view and research.

As it stands Toronto won't catch Charlotte, Washington or NO for 3rd best tank job. Sneaking ahead of Cleveland or Sacramento isn't very likely. GS and NJ are tied with the Raptors, with Detroit hot on their heels. As it stand Toronto could end up anywhere between 4th worst (or best depending on how you view things) to 9th, with 6th to 8th seemingly being the most likely.

Then of course you have the lottery itself which, should Toronto end up in the 6-8 range, would give them an approx 80+% chance of not getting a top 3 pick (which I call the dhack kill joy approach : ) ) It also gives them a, surprise!, very good chance (80%+) of drafting 6 to 9. So for those who wish to bare with me, we'll pretend that will be Toronto's range

(just as a note : should Toronto end up with a top 3 I fully expect it to be Davis - MKG - Beal in that order)

So who is likely to be available in that 6 - 9 range?

Well I think its fair to assume Anthony Davis, MKG, Bradley Beal, and Thomas Robinson will be out, along with either Drummond or Barnes. (Of course you can never really predict who is gone where and there will likely be a surprise somewhere along the way)

But if we look at the remaining players, there is a plethora of PFs (or bigs in general)

Sullinger - Henson - Zeller - PJ3 - T. Jones - Moultrie - Drummond (?)

and then the just outside the top 10 you start getting your guards

Lamb - Lilliard - Rivers - Marshall - Barnes (?)

So I'm sure alot of people are asking - why Sullinger? There are no shortage of people who are down on him. His draft stock seems to fluctuate somewhere between 6 - 14 on any given day

Why are people down on Sullinger?

size - a lot of people view him as a bit to short and a bit to chunky. I think those criticisms are a bit overstated. The most recent measurement I can find (2011) had him at 6'10", 260 with a 7'1" wingspan. That's legit big man size. Solid sized PF, average to slightly below average C.

Athleticism - well can't really say much about that one. The guy is not winning any foot races, he is not jumping out of the gym and will play most of his game below the rim. But there are no shortage of successful NBA bigs that play that way. Kevin Love may be the best PF in the league right now, Louis Scola, Ersan Ilyasova, Greg Monroe, Paul Milsap (although I think he is more athletic than given credit for), Zach Randolph... all to differing degrees.

Defense - he is clearly not a shot blocker. He probably isn't going to shut down perimeter playing PFs. But he has the size to bang with other bigs, seems to play smart D and is relatively good with his hands. Nene and Greg Monroe are both guys who I think could be used as examples of smart and 'handsy' defenders

What are some of the positives?

High IQ/Skilled player - everything I see on Sullinger really compliments him here. And if he is as smart and skilled as people claim, its not hard to see this making up for his athletic weaknesses. I mentioned some names above, but I'm sure we can all think of 'not that athletic but smart players that really benefit a team'

Low post player - last time Toronto had a skilled low post player was sometime between never and Antonio Davis. Which, if I do my math right, is still never. And if we think of how Casey is likely to want to keep a slow pace to the games, a guy who can (or at least will) actually play in the post is a great asset.

JV/Sullinger duo - this is actually what really intrigues me the most. Defensively - JV is a high motor, high energy player who has length but is working on strength. Sullinger, a bit of the opposite. I could easily see them being well positioned to compensate for the other... JV covering the 'quicker' bigs, Sullinger covering the 'banger'....at least until JV is ready throw some weight around. Offensively they are both highly efficient, with Sullinger likely to be the more skilled guy and JV the pick n' roller. Sully, who has some range will help keep the D honest. If JV can add a consistent mid range shot (which I do not doubt) that could be a real tough big man combo to deal with

Rebounding - I'm not going to say to much here, but JV and Sullinger could easily be eating them up in a few years.

Team Influences

Bargnani effect - I see two option here:

1) trade him as the team will be loaded with bigs and a wing with range is going to be (and is) needed

2) 3 big rotation with Bargs off the bench (where he is probably best used anyways, but thats neither here nor there) With Sullinger and JV both potentially (hopefully) being able to bang with the bigger guys that can keep Bargnani from doing it. Plus with another skilled offensive player it can take some of the weight off Bargnani at the offensive end, and perhaps allow him to exert energy (consistently) on D/Rebounding/doing stuff. *Bonus* - a good rebounder beside him at all times. Add Gray or Alabi as filler or situational low minute guys.

Derozan effect - two options again:

1) trade him because again, the team needs a wing that can shoot

2) off the bench (probably his best spot)

*should he be able to hit a 3 even at an average rate the above could change

Glut at PF effect - hello trade bait. Probably 2 of Amir/Ed/Bargs would be going. Could that net (along with other assets such as the 2nd round picks or Demar or whatever) another lottery or mid first rounder for say a Lilliard, Marshall or Lamb? (or fill in the blank at your own discretion)

Part of me would be very excited to see a line up that somehow resembled

C - Jonas/Gray/Alabi

PF - Sullinger/(Bargs or Amir or Ed)

SF - ummm well need work here but I guess fill in the blank player/JJ/Demar/Kleiza (in some fashion)

SG - yeah needs work to Demar/Someone/Bayless

PG - Jose/Marshall - with this probably switching at some point

Ok so that future line up is pretty vague I'll admit, and there is clearly still work to be done. Greatest weakness though? Barring something ridiculous happening like Demar figuring shit out, or Sullinger or JV becoming a superstar, the team would resemble a Memphis or perverted Dertroit team rather than the classic superstar build. So I'm not claiming this is perfect. Also the wings are going need some range (not like that's a surprise either though) Maybe a corner 3 ball shooter this team hasn't had since umm... technically Kapono (but I'm not sure pump fake take a long 2 counts, so perhaps Mo Pete or Dell Curry are better examples)

Summing it up

I'm not claiming Sullinger won't bust out or will become a star. I'm just not as down on him as a lot seem to be. I think his skill and size (ie. bulk) could be a real asset. If his weight loss of 20lbs last year is any indication, I think his dedication and work ethic should be positives. And if JV and Sullinger's strengths are what people say they are, they could really become a dynamite combo and really compensate for each other potential defensive weaknesses. Considering the likely range, he may not only be the best player available (and that of course could be widely discussed no doubt) he may end up being a very nice fit.

So let me ask, should the Raps fall in this 6-9 range, does Sullinger make sense?

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