Today’s NBA Draft Blog Scouting Report looks at a freshman who many expected big things of this year, but has even exceeded those lofty expectations – Ohio State forward – Jared Sullinger. Sullinger, the younger brother of former Ohio State player JJ Sullinger is a massive player with the skills and footwork of someone much smaller than he. Scouts already see what he can bring to the floor, but where do his skills fall in terms of NBA players? Let’s take a look:
Forward - 6'9, 280
17.9 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 58.6% FG, 72.3% FT
Post Skills- It may be safe to say that Sullinger is the most-advanced post player to come into college in a long time. He has a very wide body and knows how to use it well to establish position in the post. He creates a wide base, making it tough for defenders to get around him and always presents an excellent target for his teammates. He uses various moves to get to the basket, including a drop-step which he can use to either side, and a nice baby-hook which is tough to defend. He has very good touch on his shot, uses the backboard well, and can finish with a power move when necessary. His face-up moves are still a work-in-progress, but he is improving, and does a good job going from the face-up to backing down his man. He still needs to be more consistent with the short jumper out of the post area, and more importantly, he needs to develop the upper body strength to go with his lower body. As defenses have adjusted to his game, he has having a tough time getting shots off at the rim and is relying more on fade-away shots. He does show very good body control for his size and finds ways to make his large frame elusive.
Footwork- Sullinger’s footwork on offense is some of the best I have seen this year. He makes strong moves, with purpose, but shows incredible agility for 280 pounds. As I stated earlier, his drop-step is very tough to stop, though as defenses are adjusting better, he needs to be careful, because of his size, once he gets moving, it is very tough for him to stop – so don’t be surprised if you see him pick up more offensive fouls the second half of the season as he learns to adjust.
Ballhandling/Hands/Penetration- Sullinger handles the ball well, and does a good job using his body to shield his dribble. He still needs to improve his control while out on the perimeter, but he has shown that he is capable of taking someone off the dribble and getting to the rim. He is equally strong using either hand, and has even added a nice hesitation dribble as the season as gone on. He has excellent hands, and there aren’t many passes he can’t handle. Though he has soft hands, he gets a firm grip on the ball and it is tough to swat it away from him. While Sullinger’s penetration skills aren’t great, he does have the ability to take the ball strong to the basket. As I brought up earlier, his biggest problem here is that because of his size, it is very tough for him to stop once he gets moving and this can lead to some bad shots or fouls.
Perimeter Shooting- Sullinger has shown the ability to shoot from 15 feet comfortably, though he it doesn’t seem like he has a lot of confidence in that shot, and looks to take the ball down to the post or to the rim. He has very good form and has the soft shot that will get him many generous bounces. If he can become comfortable at 15 to 18 feet, it will be very tough for players to defend him, though he is always going to be more of a post player.
Rebounding/Passing- Sullinger is a fantastic rebounder on the offensive end, not only because his size makes it difficult for defenders to get around him, but he knows how to use his body well and where to get position. He has strong hands and at times it seems like the ball just goes to him. If he can become quicker with his shots off the miss, and get stronger to get the ball up in the crowd, he can add 6 to 8 points a game just off of offensive boards. He has very court vision and a high basketball IQ, both which allow him to be dangerous as a passer out of the both the high and low post. HE reacts quickly to double teams and always seems to know where his perimeter outlets are.
Free Throw Shooting - Sullinger is a solid free-throw shooter, with consistent form and good confidence at the line. He gets to the line over 6 times a game, and with his skill set, could easily reach double digit attempts most nights.
Post Defense- Sullinger is a strong post defender, though his strength lies in being able to use his body to keep players from getting close to the basket. He is not a great jumper and doesn’t have good shot-blocking ability, so his best bet is to use his lower body to keep pushing players away from the rim. He does have good instincts and denies to entry pass to the post well. He moves his feet well and anticipates offensive players’ moves, though he doesn’t always have the lateral foot speed to stop quicker post players. He is also a good help defender, though it is based more on instinct than speed of getting to the spot.
Perimeter Defense- Sullinger is a smart, though not particularly great, perimeter defender. He doesn’t have the speed to stay with quicker players on the outside, so he needs to give a cushion, which can be exploited by a good shooter. However, his knowledge lets him react when he has been beat to recover and make plays. He needs to do a better job hedging on the pick and roll, where he often overplays the screen too much and gets caught in a bad defensive spot. When he doesn’t overplay, he does a good job getting out on the ballhandler and recovering to his man.
Rebounding/Blocking- As I said earlier, Sullinger is not much of a shotblocker, though on the plus side, he knows it and doesn’t try to go after shots he couldn’t get to, thus avoiding silly fouls. As a rebounder though, he is one of the best in the country. Everything about the way he approaches rebounding is done right – blocking out, positioning, going after the ball and securing it. The only thing he could really improve on here would be improving his athleticism to get to the ball quicker, but it’s not as big an issue with him because his wide body makes it tough for players to get around him to the ball.
Summary & Intangibles
Athleticism – Above Average
BB IQ - Excellent
Even if Kyrie Irving had not been injured, it would be tough to argue that Sullinger is not the best freshman in the country this season. It’s not just the skill-set he brings to the court, but the maturity and work ethic which puts him in a class by himself. While there are issues, such as perimeter shooting and defense, for him to improve, it would be hard to argue that he couldn’t play solid minutes in the NBA right now. The only problem in terms of determining where he could fall in the draft is does a team spend a Top 5 or 6 pick on a 280 pound power forward, even one as skilled as Sullinger. My guess would be no, unless it is a team which is realistically just a post player away from being a playoff team. He should go towards the end of the Top 10 if he does declare in 2011, which I would be surprised if he didn’t.
Check back tomorrow for a special 2 player report on the Duke senior leaders – Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler. Remember, leave any comments below, follow me on Twitter - @NBADraftBlog, or feel free to email me at the link up top.