After making a stop in Spokane this weekend for Hoopfest, Kelly Olynyk was introduced Monday afternoon to the Boston media as the newest member of the Celtics.
Many questions loom over this franchise right now with Doc Rivers now with the Clippers and team icons Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce on their way to the Brooklyn Nets. Another question looming over this team is whether Olynyk can be more of a factor in the NBA than previous Zags like Adam Morrison, Austin Daye and Jeremy Pargo.
I believe the answer to that question is yes, and here are three reasons why:
The Boston Rebuild
The Celtics are on a clear rebuild right now after trading off (can't become final until July 10) Garnett and Pierce for a collection of expiring contracts and a trio of first-round draft picks. The expectations in Boston are no longer about competing for an NBA title, but are now about how quickly can they become competitive again?
With that said, Kelly is going in to a scenario where there's a high probability to succeed. He's going to get game experience because there will be opportunity to play. Right now, the Celtics only have one center under contract (Fab Melo), giving Olynyk an open door to compete for significant minutes at the four and five spot.
In addition, let's not be blinded by the fact that the Celtics hope to upgrade their team with some of the great players expected in the 2014 NBA Draft. Their organization's focus will be on ping-pong balls, rather than winning next year.
For Olynyk, that means there's no pressure to go out and win, or to save the franchise. His individual improvement will come with losses and missed shots, but he'll be a way better player by game 82 because of the experience he's getting. This upcoming year may as well be the equivalent of Kelly's redshirt season at Gonzaga.
A 7-Footer Who Can Hit The Three
He's no Dirk Nowitzki, but what team in the league wouldn't want a 7-footer who can hit from beyond the 3-point line? The question looming may be about how consistent he is, but we saw former lottery pick Channing Frye resurrect his career in Phoenix because of the 3-point shot. Olynyk will likely begin that journey from the get-go, making him a factor right away and giving his coach even more reason to keep him in game.
In today's NBA, there are very few true centers left, making a player like Kelly even more of a fit for any team. It helps being in the Eastern Conference as well, where the only true centers are New York's Tyson Chandler and Indiana's Roy Hibbert. For the most part, Kelly will be able to match up with opposing big men, while possessing the ability to stretch the floor with his shot.
Olynyk's Mental Game
This is probably his biggest strength and the skill that will make his career last in the NBA. For one, the guy will work. Olynyk proved during his redshirt season that he'll put the work in even without having the benefit of playing in games. He's not the most naturally talented player, but his skill set has been a byproduct of his hard work and dedication. He'll need that same drive to compete in the NBA.
The other factor is that he's not going in with an expectation that he's already earned what he's been given. In interviews, he simply says ‘whatever happens happens' and his focus is on working hard and making this team better.
Yes, it's the right words to say, but he's not coming in expecting to be the savior of the franchise. In the words of Rick Pitino, "Larry Bird isn't coming through that door." Olynyk is no Bird, but he is a hybrid player that has the mental toughness to continue to get better.
All and all, Olynyk is not the next All-Star or big names to take over the NBA, although I don't know if anyone in this year's draft even has that potential. However, the guy is going to give it all he has in Boston. He's a Matt Bonner type player with way more upside. Bonner has now been in the year for nine years, which isn't bad for a second-round pick in 2003.
Celtics fans will get their first view of Olynyk on Sunday at the NBA Summer League in Orlando, for hopefully his first of many games in an NBA uniform.