A week ago today, Kelly Olynyk participated in his first organized basketball game as a member of the Boston Celtics. The gym was full of media, coaches, GM’s, and scouts all trying to get a read on what Olynyk and the rest of the new rookies had to offer.
Olynyk didn’t disappoint.
I liked what I saw from Olynyk throughout the week. I didn’t care so much about the stats (which, at 18 ppg, 7.8 rpg, and 2.4 apg were impressive), I cared more about how he moved and reacted. I found him to be very impressive, and I wasn’t alone.
An NBA scout I spoke to gave me an exclusive breakdown of what he saw from Olynyk this week. As we expected, Olynyk’s offense stood out.
“The biggest thing he presents offensive versatility,” the scout told me. “He can score in every imaginable way. He can shoot threes, he can shoot off the dribble, he can head fake and improve position, he can score in the post, he can score off offensive rebounds.”
Considering the Celtics are rebuilding right now, this scout likes how the team can make Olynyk work regardless of how the roster shakes out.
“He’s like a skilled European type player that can be utilized, because of his versatility, he’ll fit with a lot of different type of components. So if you have a limited center who is a limited offensive guy, you can play Olynyk away from the basket and make it work. Even if you have another guy that’s as versatile as he is, you might be able to down-screen for that guy, that guy pops out, and now Olynyk can score in the post. There’s a lot of different ways you can use him.”
The Celtics have another versatile guy in Jared Sullinger. They can set Olynyk on the high post and Sullinger low with Rondo on that wing handling the ball. If the Celtics can set up a shooter on the high-opposite side and Jeff Green on the opposite wing, the Celtics will have an offense that can actually score a few points.
And within that offense, the Celtics will be able to rely on Olynyk’s passing to get guys open looks.
“I wouldn’t say if he’s Arvydas Sabonis or Bill Walton,” said the scout. “But I think he’s shown the ability to understand the game and have a high IQ, and when the defense moves, he delivers the right pass technically to somebody else. He’ll pass off the dribble. He sees the floor. A lot of those plays he looked good on [in Orlando] were set plays where guys went back door trying to catch somebody off guard, which is great because he can deliver that pass.”
At draft time, Olynyk had a few weaknesses that kept him out of the top 10. But even those weaknesses didn’t seem to bother this scout.
“I wouldn’t consider him a big time rebounder right now, but he’s got a decent nose for the ball. I don’t think he’s overly long. I don’t think he’s an explosive leaper. That might be a detraction against bigger, stronger guys. I didn’t think he had a lot of lift when I saw him in college to play with his back to the basket and shoot over people. I didn’t think that was really his game. The trade-off is that you get a lot of versatility out of him. He can guard 5’s, and he can guard 4’s as well. He doesn’t not move his feet. I think he showed this week that his lateral quickness is where you want it to be, and I think that was a surprise to a lot of people.”
As for Olynyk facing guys who might be bigger and stronger than he is…
“He might get exposed by bigger, more powerful guys in the paint, but who are you really worried about like that anyway in the years to come? I understand there are a couple of guys like that now, but I’m not overly worried about that because he’s smart enough, he’s crafty enough, and he’s savvy enough to figure out a way to guard those guys that are a little more powerful than he is but less skilled.”
After a week of playing in Orlando, Olynyk has most certainly impressed this, and other NBA scout. I stumbled onto a few conversations myself between executives who were surprised at some of the things Olynyk was doing. So the next natural question is… how does Kelly Olynyk project out in his rookie year?
“It’s too early to speculate. It depends on what the makeup of the team is. Obviously with the Celtics they’ve got a lot of new faces, so how is it all going to jell together? He could play 30-35 minutes a game and be the rookie of the year, or play spot minutes and let him develop or feel comfortable and go from there. It really how their team ends up panning out in terms of their personnel. It’s hard to speculate without knowing exactly what’s going on over there.”
In the end though, it seems Danny Ainge might have hit the jackpot with the 13th pick.
“He has enough tools, and enough ability to certainly be widely known in the NBA.”