The Celtics announced today that they are renouncing Sullinger’s qualifying offer and exception rights, thus (probably) concluding the tenure of one of the most divisive Celtics in recent memory. Sullinger, in theory, is the exact type of big man most teams are looking for in the draft – the type of player who can defend centers, but can run and play like a power forward. The next Draymond Green, if you will. Sullinger’s size exceeds that of Green for better and for worse, as he has mastered the art of boxing out, but not without fighting through back problems that began in his college days.
Sullinger’s place on the team has always been controversial in the eyes of Celtics fans as any argument for or against him ultimately led to a stalemate. If you brought up his weight, you would be reminded of his role in the starting line up as a consistent double-double threat. On the other hand, stats don’t tell a complete story, and you can’t help but wonder what he could do with a little weight loss. His off-court antics brought on the consequences of a common double standard in pro sports, where star players are seen as a positive influence when they goof around in the locker room while guys like Sullinger might be seen as distractions.
I, for one, appreciate Sullinger for the toughness and positive attitude he brought to a young, developing team. I can appreciate any player who can finish a play through a swarm of elbows and still flash a smile on their way to the bench. I appreciate how Sully’s hustle could take the Celtics the extra mile, even if his weight held him back a bit. Before you write him off as lazy, here’s a reminder of one of his unique skills, passing while on the floor:
From the hustle plays and the unexpected clutch three-pointers to throwing his clothes at Chris Mannix, I’m truly grateful for the time he spent on this team, and I’ll be a little sad to see him go.
But here’s the bottom line: He’s overweight and, based on his shot selection, also stubborn. Nothing bothers me more than lazy one-and-done possessions on offense, and I feel that Sullinger would often take deep two point shots with plenty of time on the shot clock with little willingness to let the offense develop around him. The Celtics are loaded with options for replacements as their summer league roster includes Jaylen Brown, Ben Bentil, Jordan Mickey, and Guerschon Yabusele, all of which appear to be in better shape than Sully.
Teams looking to sign Sullinger can expect all the hustle and gritty defense they saw from him in Boston, but should be wary of his durability. Blame the match up if you want, but this year’s playoff series against Atlanta showed us that Sullinger in his current state is not fit to play a season that extends beyond 82 games. Get that man on a treadmill and suddenly you’ve got yourself Draymond Green Lite.