Pregame – Doc Discusses Sully Missing Rising Stars Challenge
Fans voted two Boston Celtics into the All-Star game as starters. Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett were on track to start alongside Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.
Rondo went down with a torn ACL last week and the NBA announced on Wednesday that Brook Lopez will replace him on the lineup. Although Rondo will no longer be down in Houston, many Celtics followers believed that two members from the team would, in fact, be invited to join the festivities.
In addition to the All-Star game, we all know that there is also All-Star Saturday night and the Rising Stars Challenge game, which mixes the top rookies and sophomores for an entertaining contest. Jeff Green has been rumored to be a target for the slam dunk contest, but he hasn’t confirmed that he’d even be interested. The man who many expected to join Garnett in Houston is Jared Sullinger.
Sullinger is clearly one of the top rookies in the NBA. He is logging legit minutes on a team many believed to be a title contender. He is currently the league’s 17th-best rebounder when it comes to boards per 48 minutes. The league, however, seems to have overlooked those stats.
The league left Sullinger off of the pool of 18 rookies and sophomores, which was announced Wednesday afternoon. Among the players who were selected over Sullinger is Tyler Zeller of the Cavaliers.
Zeller is currently averaging 8.3 points per game and 6.2 rebounds per game while shooting a woeful 41.4 percent in 27.9 minutes of playing time a night. Sullinger, on the other hand, is averaging 6.1 PPG and 6.0 RPG, and he’s shooting 49.3 percent from the field in just 20.2 minutes of action a night. In other words, the two players have nearly the exact same scoring and rebounding numbers despite Sullinger playing about eight less minutes per game. Sullinger is also shooting much, much better from the floor and has a PER of 13.7, compared to Zeller’s 10.88.
Doc Rivers claimed to have no knowledge of that prior to being asked about it before tonight’s game. He didn’t really have a take on whether Sullinger should have made the team or not, but he did make another interesting comment.
“Yeah, but listen, he’ll make it eventually,” said Rivers. “Maybe not that team, but he’ll be in the league for a long time and I think he’ll be happier with that in the long run.”
The conversation got the wheels turning on my end and I decided to pose a question to Rivers: If the NBA Draft happened again tonight, with all of the teams in the league having already seen these rookies play half a season in the NBA, where would Sullinger be selected?
“Top five,” Rivers said quickly.
The league apparently doesn’t think Sullinger has played like a top-five pick, but who really cares? As long as the Celtics do, that’s all that matters.