Jared Sullinger continues to make a case to be in the Celtics starting line-up
Rejoice! The Boston Celtics finally broke a four game losing streak by beating the Indiana Pacers on Friday night. Coming after a lack-luster performance on Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Boston Celtics went back to something that catapulted them to the Atlantic Division crown a year ago. They went back to a starting line-up of Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Paul Pierce, Brandon Bass, and Kevin Garnett. On paper it makes sense. It was the Celtics best line-up last year and they have chemistry and consistency, especially on the defensive end of the floor. Yet, it could still be argued that the Celtics are not putting out their best line-up.
Another power-forward on the Boston Celtics roster played more minutes than Brandon Bass, gathered more rebounds and scored more points than Brandon Bass and simply played better than Brandon Bass. It is rookie power-forward Jared Sullinger.
About a week ago, during the doldrums of the Boston Celtics season, #FreeSully quickly popped up as a hash-tag on the popular social media website Twitter. There was two reasons for this. For one, the Celtics looked old and tired and an infusion of young blood, especially talented young blood seemed to only help the basketball team. The other reason is simple. Jared Sullinger has been really good.
Off the bench, Jared Sullinger is averaging about 18 minutes a game and putting up a an average of 5 points and 5 rebounds a game. Simply, this makes his per-36 minute stats at a good 10 points and 10 rebounds. That is 1 less point than Bass and 3 more rebounds and for a team that has been lacking in “in the paint” toughness on the boards all season, it makes sense for Sully to get more minutes.
Friday night once again highlighted that from Sullinger. In 30 minutes of game-play (increased minutes because of an ejection of Kevin Garnett), Sully had 7 points and 10 rebounds off the bench before fouling out with six fouls. He played his role well, grinding out points in the paint, fighting for rebounds and giving good effort in the low-post. All of which is more that can be said from Brandon Bass this season. It’s the reason that Sullinger was +17 on Friday night and Bass was only +1.
Freeing Sully from the confines of the bench also has an added bonus. It provides the bench with more scoring. Brandon Bass is a better scorer than Jared Sullinger, but Brandon Bass also has a damning nick-name of “No Pass Bass”. In the starting line-up, this can hurt the Celtics as Bass has a one-track mind of putting the ball in the net. It’s not a role that the Celtics need in their starting line-up. Rather, it is one that can benefit the bench. Bringing Bass off the bench allows him to see the other teams second unit front-court and also allows Celtics coach Doc Rivers to tell him to go get his points. If Bass is on, then he rides Bass until he cools down. Otherwise, he plays his minutes and gets off the court. Part of the reason he has not been as good as he was last year is because they have been toying with his minutes. They can’t keep shuffling his minutes like they have been all season long. They either need to start him or bring him off the bench as the eighth man.
The Celtics have an option, it’s Jared Sullinger. He has played better than Brandon Bass in his minutes this year and his play is what the Boston Celtics need in their starting line-up. He provides toughness, energy, rebounding and defense in addition to serviceable scoring.
It’s time for the Celtics to #FreeSully.