It’s only taken three years and three games for Kelly Olynyk to play at a level so many were looking for when the Boston Celtics pulled off a draft-night trade to get him.
There will be some who will see Olynyk’s improved play typical of what a player in a contract year does: he plays his best basketball ever.
Others will point to the fact that after having had right shoulder surgery in May, Olynyk is as healthy as he’s ever been. Combine that with the experience that comes with being in the league three-plus years and what you have is a player ready to be a difference-maker.
Since being cleared to play, Olynyk has been one of the Celtics’ top players.
The Celtics are hopeful that Olynyk’s strong play will continue to tonight as Boston (5-4) tries to extend its winning streak to three in a row against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Olynyk has played in the Celtics’ last three games, starting the last two.
In those two starts, he has averaged 17.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists.
It’s hard to imagine Olynyk being this effective so quickly when you consider he did very little physical work during training camp and had only practiced for about a week or two prior to seeing his first action of the season.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens believes Olynyk’s fast start has been aided by the fact that Boston has been without Al Horford (concussion) which created a clear void for the team in terms of needing another big man who can stretch the floor.
A 40.5 percent shooter from 3-point range, Olynyk has shot 45.4 percent thus far from behind the 3-point line.
Maybe most significant has been Olynyk averaging 29 minutes of court time.
“Most of the guys that come back don’t play as much,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “He did practice for a week or two before he came back which was good; that’s an ideal scenario. It’s good he’s been able to come back, feel healthy and play well.”
Although the Pelicans (1-9) have struggled mightily all season, they still have Anthony Davis who is a top-10 talent in the NBA.
This season he’s averaging 31.0 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.1 blocked shots per game.
But the weight of carrying the franchise on a nightly basis has been an issue in the past and continues to be one this season.
In a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday, Davis suffered a back injury in the third quarter that at the time had the Pelicans trailing by just one point. He would come back a few minutes later, but by that time the Lakers had ran off 14 straight points. New Orleans was never in the game afterwards as they went on to get blown out 126-99.
As lopsided as tonight’s game may look in favor of the Celtics, they know all too well they can’t afford to take any team for granted.
Especially a team with a player like Davis who is capable of single-handedly keeping his team in the game.