Detroit Pistons #DraftDreams: Jared Sullinger

Note: Ian Levy at Hickory High has started his awesome similarity scores for prospects again. I’m going back and adding links to previous #DraftDreams profiles who have similarity scores available and will continue to add them from this point forward.


  • Measurables: 6-foot-9, 265pounds, sophomore F/C from Ohio State
  • Key Stats: 17.6 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.1 blocks per game while shooting 52 percent
  • Projected: Mid to late lottery
  • Hickory High Similarity Score

Why I’m intrigued by this guy

Other than the fact that Sullinger has frequently been mentioned as a strong possibility for the Pistons if the lottery shakes out as predicted, I’ve started to become more enthused about Sullinger as he’s seemingly become more undervalued.

A year ago, had he declared, he would’ve been in the No. 1 pick conversation. When he decided to stay in school, it was assumed that he’d take another huge leap forward and cement himself as a top three pick. Instead, he improved incrementally as a sophomore, gave scouts more time to nit-pick his weaknesses and he’s plummeted towards the bottom of the lottery in most mocks. I’m at the point where, even thought he Pistons could use a more athletic player, I think Sullinger would represent pretty good value if he’s available where the Pistons are likely to pick.

Pros for the Pistons

Do you like rebounds? Because Sullinger grabbed nearly a quarter of all available defensive rebounds when he was on the floor for Ohio State the last two seasons. He gets good position on the glass and he seems to have the instincts going after the ball that most good rebounders possess.

He’s also worked on his game. His stats didn’t make a huge leap from freshman to sophomore season, but he did work to get himself into better shape as a sophomore and he did extend his range out past the 3-point line (he didn’t take a ton of threes, but he hit 40 percent of his 40 attempts out there this season after only attempting 12 threes as a freshman). Also, via Tony Manfred of Business Insider:

Once you dive into the stats, you find that Sullinger is stunningly similar to Love as a college player.

Now, I think it’s pretty crazy to draft Sullinger expecting he’ll morph into a top five player the way Love did. But Love is the best example of a player who was knocked around a bit by scouts for being short and pudgy for his position despite great production during his one college season, and that hasn’t been a problem for him in the NBA. Sullinger is short for his position and has had questions about his conditioning, but it’s hard to ignore his production, particularly on the glass.

Cons for the Pistons

As a fan of Big Ten hoops, I watched a lot of Ohio State the last two seasons. I was down on Sullinger at times, mostly because of his defense. I’m not sure he has the lateral quickness to stay in front of bigs who can put the ball on the floor. Against Michigan State, for example, Sullinger was beat off the dribble a couple times by Derrick Nix, who no one will ever mistake for Chris Bosh or Amar’e Stoudemire. The Pistons already have a porous frontcourt defense, and Sullinger won’t address that need I don’t think.

Although he blocked the occasional shot in college, he’s not the rim protector the Pistons lack, either. A Sullinger-Greg Monroe frontline certainly has its attractive qualities (boards, boards, boards), but it would also give the Pistons a starting frontcourt with really limited athleticism.

What others are saying

Chad Ford:

Sullinger has been one of the two or three most dominant big men in the NCAA the past two years. He’s a load in the paint and excels both as a scorer and as a rebounder. His thick frame allows him to get and keep great position on the block. He’s one of the NCAA’s best scorers with his back to the basket. He has a very high basketball IQ and it shows at both ends. He’s very skilled for a player his age, has terrific hands and shows advanced post moves around the basket. He also continues to improve his face-the-basket game and can even shoot the 3 when called upon. Defensively, he’s one of the top rebounders in college basketball. His 30.39 PER ranked 10th among current college players.

Nevertheless, there are major question marks for Sullinger. Despite his slimmed-down physique, Sullinger is an underwhelming athlete. He plays mostly below the rim, doesn’t move well laterally and at times still struggles with his conditioning. What complicates matters is that Sullinger is severely undersized for his most natural position (center) and even undersized for the 4 at the next level. His long arms make up some of that difference, but it’s been pretty clear for the past two seasons that Sullinger struggles when playing against length.


The biggest key to Sullinger’s dominance has been the opposition’s inability to keep him outside of the paint. While he’s lost a good deal of weight, he’s still retained all of the strength in his lower body that makes him so difficult to handle one on one. With his terrific base and low center of gravity, Sullinger is constantly working to establish better post-position down low. Tough and extremely aggressive, he’s not afraid to simply put his ass into a defender and go to work until he gets to where he wants to on the floor.

Highly refined, old school post player in a draft saturated with “potential”. His game is marked by both power and skill. Legitimate low block scorer often working his way into a high quality look (17.5 PPG on 52% FG). Master of positioning at 280 pounds and establishes early. Uses his wide body and derriere to keep defenders locked onto his hip. Tremendous lower body strength pinning his opponents into submission. Aggressively throws his weight around and unafraid to punish those in his path. Thrives on contact. Wide array of post moves on the low block, finishing over either shoulder with either hand. Footwork and understanding of angles are advanced. Soft hands and a feathery touch. Nimble elusivity for his size. He has taken strides in the face-up game, working from the elbow area in space without threat of a double. He’s a dual threat from there, either comfortably popping a mid-range jumper or attacking off the bounce with skilled handle. Quickness is not his ally, but he’s a bull in a china shop. Technically sound jump shot with smooth release.

Sports Illustrated:

“He made a good move staying in school,” one scout said. “Without all those foreign forwards in the draft next year — guys like [Jonas] Valanciunas, [Bismack] Biyombo, [Jan] Vesely, [Enes] Kanter — Sullinger can probably lock down a spot in the top five.” Evaluators will watch Sullinger’s matchups with players who have NBA-level size and length with particular interest, as the jury is still out on whether he can be an elite power forward in the pros, or just a complementary piece who uses his bulk to battle for rebounds. “He’s already a monster down low in college,” another scout said. “I think he could help himself by playing a little lighter next season, because his body was a concern coming into his freshman year, and proving he can step out into the mid-post and free-throw area and knock down shots.”

What is the best thing Jared Sullinger does for his team?

Luke Zimmerman (follow him on Twitter) writes for Land-Grant Holy Land, SB Nation’s Ohio State blog:

Sullinger is just one of those guys that makes everyone else around him better. They say “when you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all.” This goes especially for Jared, and unfortunately lends to some of his detractors who see him with the ceiling of a Kenny Thomas or have him unfairly prejudged as another Mike Sweetney. Sullinger has extremely soft hands that let him not only catch everything thrown within his general vicinity, but also lend in aiding him in finding the open teammate in the event of the inevitable double team. Yeah, he’s not a jump out the gym athlete, but neither is Kevin Love or Luis Scola. When other teammates are in a clear funk, Sully is particularly prone to take the weight of the situation on his back and do everything he can to finish smoothly around the basket and keep the offense flowing.



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