Former Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger will not be invited to the NBA Draft at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. because the league does not expect him to be among the draft’s top 15 picks.
NBA executive vice president Stu Jackson told ESPN.com that the league made the decision based on reports that Sullinger would not be a lottery pick. Red flags about a potential back injury have led to speculation that Sullinger will slip in the draft. By not inviting him to the draft, the NBA avoids the potentially awkward situation of Sullinger sitting in the green room after everyone else who was invited to the draft has been picked.
“He’s more likely to go in the teens or in the 20s,” Jackson said. “We continue to have contact with teams, but at this late date we don’t anticipate inviting him.”
What may be bad news for Sullinger is good news for the Celtics, who hold the 21st and 22d picks in the first round Thursday. Sullinger, a two-time All-American, averaged 17.5 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks for one of the best teams in the country last season. Once projected to be a top-five pick, Sullinger could be a steal for a team picking in the 20s.
On the other side of the argument, the point can be made that the Celtics should avoid taking Sullinger if he’s damaged goods. Another limitation of the former Ohio State forward is that at 6-feet-9-inches, he’s on the small side for NBA power forwards. There are also questions about Sullinger’s conditioning, which would limit his ability to run the floor with a point guard like the Celtics’ Rajon Rondo.
To me, Sullinger is worth the risk. Seeing him play in person during the NCAA Tournament’s East regional in March answered some doubts about his lack of height. Sullinger may give up a couple of inches in the NBA, but he’s certainly not going to give up size. He’s every bit of the 268 pounds he’s listed at, and that’s a good thing; Sullinger’s power is in his backside, which he uses to carve out space where there should be done. In that way, he’s a lot like Glen Davis, though comparing Sullinger to Davis would be doing Sullinger a disservice. Sullinger has all the moves on the offensive end, can finish with both hands, and will have no trouble getting his own shot at the next level. Where he may struggle is on defense; it make take a year or two in the league for Sullinger to adjust to guarding NBA speed, though the same is true for every player.
If Sullinger is available to the Celtics at No. 21, he’s worth the risk. With back-to-back picks, he’s at least someone for the Celtics to think long and hard about.