Commentary

Kelly Olynyk lost in shuffle

Blockbuster deal stole the spotlight, but he'll get chance to shine with Celtics

Updated: June 30, 2013, 3:47 AM ET
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- His draft night was hijacked by the blockbuster swap that the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets agreed to on Thursday, but Kelly Olynyk should focus on the positive: The rebuilding process being ushered in by that trade ought to put him in the spotlight more often during his rookie season.

The Celtics shuffled up three spots during Thursday's draft to nab Olynyk with the 13th pick. He's Boston's highest drafted player since the team took Jeff Green at No. 5 in 2007, only to flip him to Seattle in exchange for Ray Allen as the team began the process of emerging from its most-recent rebuilding effort.

[+] EnlargeKelly Olynyk
Harry How/Getty ImagesKelly Olynyk's shooting ability caught the eye of the Celtics' Danny Ainge.

Now, as Boston bunkers down for a roster makeover, its draft-pick-a-palooza starts with Olynyk, a seven-footer out of Gonzaga. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said he believes that Olynyk can be an excellent complementary piece as Boston, which has nine first-round picks over the next five seasons as it starts putting together its roster of the future.

"We weren't really confident that Kelly would be there at 16," said Ainge, who sent the No. 16 selection and two 2014 second-round picks to Dallas to move up. After the Oklahoma City Thunder took Pittsburgh big man Steven Adams at No. 12, Boston wasn't taking the risk that Olynyk could be the next big man off the board.

"There were some other guys that were there at 16, but Kelly was a guy that we think complements [Rajon] Rondo and Avery [Bradley] and Jeff [Green]. He's just a really good complementary player. He's not a go-to guy, not a star player. He's like a really good teammate type of player and complements other guys."

Olynyk, who will be formally introduced by the team on Monday with second-round pick Colton Iverson, arrives with a reputation as a high-IQ player -- his father, Ken, coached the University of Toronto and the Canada junior men's national team. Sound like a familiar bio? Jared Sullinger, Boston's top pick last season, came with a similar reputation; he slid down the draft board because of concerns over his back.

Ainge is hoping basketball smarts will help Olynyk adapt at the NBA level the way they aided Sullinger in his rookie campaign.

Asked what aspects of Olynyk's game would translate at the next level, Ainge said, "I think probably just his IQ and his size. He's not an explosive athlete, but he's got a quick mind, so that makes up for a lot. And he moves pretty well and anticipates pretty well, [which] makes up some for not being an explosive athlete. And, hopefully, the shooting part. He's been a good midrange shooter, and I think he's got a chance to be a good 3-point shooter as well."

Olynyk's offensive stats caught the attention of most observers last season. Not only did he average 17.8 points and 7.3 rebounds over 26.4 minutes per game during his junior season, but he led the nation with a 36.57 player efficiency rating.

According to Synergy Sports data, Olynyk averaged 1.131 points per play, ranking in the 95th percentile among all Division I players. A whopping 21.6 percent of his plays came in the post; on those plays, he averaged 1.067 points per play (93rd percentile). For a Boston team that craves pure size and has desperately needed scoring touch around the hoop, Olynyk could fit a need, even if his game gravitates toward the perimeter in the pros.

The concerns? His rebounding rates were not great for a seven-footer, particularly at the college level, and his defense needs work. There's concern about whether he's strong and tough enough to play the big-man spots at the NBA level. But Ainge has always loved big men with shooting ability and believes Olynyk can carve out a role.

"We watched him play a lot this year," Ainge said. "He's a seven-footer that can shoot, pass, think [and] has a great feel for the game. He's a really good kid, high-character kid, with really big upside."

Ainge added, "He looks like he's from Eugene, Ore., in 1977. Hippie hair. For those of you who don't know, that's where I grew up."

Ah yes, the hair. Olynyk said he started growing his hair out during a redshirt season at Gonzaga (which is a rather remarkable story itself as, after two underwhelming seasons with the Zags, Olynyk sat out the entire 2011-12 season to work on his body and game, then blossomed this past season). It's hard not to notice his shoulder-length locks that are typically pinned back by a small headband.

When a bald-topped reporter playfully asked Ainge if he'd make Olynyk sheer his locks, Ainge quipped, "You don't like his hair? Are you jealous?"

The Celtics are hoping Olynyk will turn heads not for his hair, but for his developing game. As for what Ainge would like Olynyk to work on before his rookie campaign, he noted, "I want him to increase his range, really look to shoot. He's a good shooter, but the NBA line is different from the college line, so just increase that and make sure he's in great shape."

Being in shape will be key. As the Celtics enter a rebuilding process, the young guys are likely to get plenty of chances to stretch out their lungs and grow through trail and error on the floor. Olynyk's draft night belonged to Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, but their absence next season will give the rookie more opportunities.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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