Every weekday until Sept. 7, we'll take a look at each player at the Celtics roster: Their strengths and their weaknesses, their ceiling and their floor. We continue today with Kelly Olynyk. For a look at the other profiles, click here.
BOSTON – The Celtics went into the playoffs last season well short of being at full strength. No player exemplified this more than Kelly Olynyk, a non-factor in postseason due to a right shoulder injury that required surgery in May.
He comes into this season facing a much stiffer route to playing time than his previous four seasons. While Jared Sullinger (Toronto) is gone, Boston brings in four-time All-Star Al Horford, in addition to returners Amir Johnson, Tyler Zeller and second-year big man Jordan Mickey, who is in line for a more expanded role this season.
Throw in the fact that Olynyk and the Celtics can reach terms on an extension before the start of the season (an unlikely occurrence because frankly it’s to both Boston and Olynyk’s benefit for him to be a restricted free agent next summer), and it’s clear just how important this season is to all involved.
Here’s a look at Olynyk’s ceiling as well as the floor for his game heading into this season.
The ceiling for Olynyk: Starter, Most Improved Player candidate
Kelly Olynyk has proven himself to be a much better contributor coming off the bench as opposed to starting. But no one will be shocked if Olynyk can play his way into a spot with the first group. A 7-footer with legit 3-point range, Olynyk has shown flashes throughout his career of being a major problem for opponents because of his stretch-big skills.
And when teams have been a bit too eager in closing out or failed to box him out on a rebound, Olynyk has shown us all that “the bounce is real.”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15jKj6_p2ik
He already ranks among the best big-man shooters all-time and needs just one made 3-pointer to join Dirk Nowitzki (1,701) and Andrea Bargnani (627) as the only 7-footers in league history with 500 or more made 3s.
In addition to making lots of 3s, Olynyk does it at a fairly efficient rate which can be seen in him shooting 40.5 percent on 3s last season which was tops among all NBA centers and made him one of just 20 players in the NBA to shoot at least 40 percent on 3s.
Although Olynyk’s defense has been considered among his biggest weaknesses, his defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions on the floor) of 97.7 was tops among Celtics players who logged at least 20 minutes per game last season.
If he can build off that, as well as continue to make teams pay with his long-range shooting, Olynyk could be one of the breakout performers this season for the Celtics and find himself on the short list of the NBA’s most improved players.
The bigger issue with Olynyk centers around his struggles holding position in the post as a rebounder. Because he’s a stretch big, you know he’s not going to haul in a ton of boards for you.
But he has to be better than last season when he grabbed 4.1 rebounds, which continued what has been a career regression in this area.
After averaging 5.2 boards as a rookie, he slipped to 4.7 in his second season and averaged a career-low 4.1 last season.
The floor for Olynyk: Active roster
Talk to anyone within the Celtics organization and they will not hesitate to point out the skillset that Olynyk has and how important he could potentially be for this team going forward.
Still, that’s part of the problem.
Olynyk has shown promise to be more than just a player in the rotation. He has the kind of skills that if he were to deliver them with more consistency, he would immediately become one of the team’s standout performers which would make Boston a much, much tougher team to defend.
But his game has been one marred by injuries and inconsistent play which, as you might expect, go hand-in-hand.
Even with what has been an uneven career, Olynyk has still managed to be a double-digit scorer in each of the past two seasons.
And his net rating (offensive rating minus defensive rating) of +5.2 is tops among players logging 20 or more minutes, too.
But even if he doesn’t elevate his game defensively or become a more reliable rebounder for Boston, Olynyk won’t be suiting up in street clothes as a healthy scratch anytime soon.
Olynyk has too much talent, and when you look at this Celtics roster, he fits a clear and well-defined need.
Pace and space remain keys to what Brad Stevens is trying to do with the Celtics and Olynyk’s strengths are an ideal addition.
But as we have seen with Stevens in the past, he’s not afraid to take a player out of the starting lineup or regular rotation, and bench them from time to time.
Just as it won’t surprise anyone to see Olynyk play a more prominent role potentially as a starter, the same is true if he struggles and finds himself racking up a few DNP-CDs (did not play- coaches decision) either.
But Olynyk has too much talent to fall too far off the Celtics’ radar, especially when you look at this roster and realize there’s no other player quite like him in terms of combining size, skill and perimeter shooting.