There is no denying that Jared Sullinger is a special talent. Throughout his career, Sullinger has always been one of the most physically gifted players on the court. In high school, Sullinger was rated #2 in the country in the ESPNU top 100. He led his Northland High School team to a perfect 21-0 record and a #1 rating in the country. He was the Co-MVP of the McDonald's All-American game and won the Naismith Award in 2010 as the top basketball player of the year.
It was widely expected that Sullinger would be a Top 5 NBA draft pick in 2012. However, Sullinger was flagged for several back issues and dropped to the Celtics at #21 overall. In his first season with the Celtics, Sullinger played well in 45 games until he sustained a back injury. On February 1, it was announced that Sullinger would miss the rest of the season with another back injury. In that same year, Sullinger turned himself into the authorities for a domestic violence issue with his girlfriend. Sullinger was charged with assault and battery, intimidation of a witness, and destruction of property. Although the charges were dropped, the incident was widely talked about in the Boston area for some time.
In the 2013-2014 season, Sullinger had a breakout year. He played in 74 games, averaging 13 points and 8 assists per game. Many thought that Sullinger had finally gotten rid of the injuries that had plagued him for the better part of his college and rookie campaign. As the 2014-2015 season approached, expectations were through the roof for the 22-year-old. Sullinger was benched multiple times during the season for apparently showing up late to shoot around twice in three days. Although the incident was not a big deal, many believe that Sullinger's way of handling the issue was worse than the actual offense. He brushed off the issue, saying everyone gets stuck in traffic and that he was at least there for the game. Nonetheless, Sullinger was averaging 14 points and 8 rebounds heading into the All-Star Weekend. It was then reported that he had a foot injury and would be out indefinitely. Three days later, the Boston Celtics confirmed that Jared Sullinger had a stress fracture in his left foot and would be out for the remainder of the season.
There is no doubt that Jared Sullinger is a unique talent. Although he is undersized, he has the ability to grab offensive rebounds and score in the post. His conditioning has always seemed to be in question, but that has not stopped him from putting up good numbers in his first three seasons. However, the most important stat in all of pro sports is the number of games played. In Sullinger's first three seasons, he has played in 45, 74 and 51 games respectively. Sullinger has also had a multitude of off the court issues. It just does not seem like basketball is the priority for him. In Boston, across our four major sports, we hold athletes to a very high level. We have obviously had our issues with athletes, (Aaron Hernandez, I'm looking at you) but we want athletes that are passionate about the game and want to win. Sullinger's injuries are obviously a concern, but what worries me more is his off the court problems. He has to realize that people idolize him, whether rightfully so or not, and because of that he has to be conscious of actions.
No player is untouchable, (I hope you're listening, Bruins) and the Celtics should explore the possibility of trading Sullinger in the offseason. I'm not saying they should dump him for a bag of basketballs and a couple of shooting sleeves, but they should be open to moving on from him. He is young and has time to mature, but he has not necessarily progressed very much in his first three seasons. When drafting someone of Sullinger's ability, they should expect him to be a 20-10 guy. Hopefully Sullinger can straighten out his off the court issues and become the player that we know he can all be.
By Pete Packowski @Pete_BBS