Had Jared Sullinger entered the 2011 NBA Draft after earning "Big 10 Freshman of the Year" honors while at Ohio State, he surely would have been a Top 5 pick. Instead, he did what a lot of Freshman should do, he went back to school. But in this case, it may have been a costly decision as Sullinger's draft status is being speculated, as we speak. Many pundits had the big man penciled in the No. 10 slot to the New Orleans Hornets, but news of a potential back problem has some speculating that he could now be a mid-to-late first round pick.
And with that speculation, Sullinger has gained a lot of interest from Denver Stiffs readers as a target for the Nuggets' No. 20 pick. So I asked Stiffs moderator and commenter extraordinaire CombatChuk, the driver of the Sullinger bandwagon, to join me in a Pro vs. Con debate on the former Buckeye.
Nate: Alright CombatChuk, you are the driving the Denver Stiffs bandwagon for Jared Sullinger. It would appear you have a lot of passengers as well, as Sullinger, Andrew Nicholson, and Perry Jones are in a virtual tie in a poll on Stiffs for the Nuggets' No. 20 pick. Lots of Stiffs agree with you that Sully should be the Nuggets pick in the first-round.
CombatChuk: Like most readers on Denver Stiffs, I want the Nuggets to win a NBA Championship. If Karma let LeBron James win a Championship, then the Denver Nuggets surely aren't that far behind. That's why fate will be kind to the Nuggets. Thursday night, Jared Sullinger will fall within reach of the Denver. Once we draft Sullinger, things will start falling into place for a Nuggets championship run in the future.
Nate: I have to admit, I like the optimism! Ok, I have three questions for you, that I will also respond to (except you don't get to see my rebuttal!):
1.) Does Sullinger's back concern you?
Pro - CombatChuk: The bad back talk is concerning for a 20 year old. But if he does require surgery, doctors have been reported to say it's a fairly routine surgery to fix a few bulging discs. Once these bulging discs are fixed, the quad and hamstring problems would be fixed as well. If he does have surgery there would be a high possibility that he would miss the entire 2012-13 season recovering and rehabilitating from this surgery. But guess what? The Nuggets as currently constructed, have so much depth that they can afford not having Sullinger for the entire season.
Sullinger has an immense basketball IQ and while he's rehabbing he can work with the coaches on the X's and O's part of his NBA game and he will most likely be better prepared because of it. Al Harrington already owns the role that I envision for Sullinger, Al has one more year of his fully guaranteed salary left. I can see this working out extremely well for the Nuggets in the future.
Con - Nate: I'm a glass half-full guy, so it's going to kill me to nit-pick a potential NBA player - especially one I loved during the 2010-11 college season. The back issues have been popping up with Sully and caused him to miss a little time with the Buckeyes this past season (two games vs. Texas Pan-American and Kansas). We've seen Danillo Gallinari and Blake Griffin miss extended times their rookie years and bounce right back, but the Nuggets shouldn't risk so much in a deep draft. I have a feeling that if he doesn't get the surgery then he'll be in-and-out of the lineup all season and the Nuggets should go after a less injury-risky pick (injury-risky ... I'm trademarking that phrase).
2.) When Sully is able to play, where does he fit in with the Nuggets? Position? Starter?
Pro - CombatChuk: I would want Jared Sullinger to replace Harrington's role on the team. A stretch-forward that can not only shoot the ball (he shot 40% from 3-point land in college and nearly 60% from 2-point land), but is banger down low and can play the center spot in George Karl's, inevitable, small ball line up. Al gives us good spacing (when he's on), but his post-presence and rebounding, when he's playing center, lacks.
Jared has powerful legs, and I don't see him getting pushed around down on the block like Harrington has been. Sullinger was a great rebounder in college (Manimal'esque) and he has numerous moves in the paint. Combine his post-play and rebounding with his excellent shooting and I could see Sullinger getting numerous Sixth Man of the year awards. Going back to his high hoops IQ, George Karl will love that about him (after dealing with knuckleheads the past few years) and will give him the role and minutes he deserves. Sullinger very well could be the missing piece for a championship in Denver.
Con - Nate: I too see Sullinger being a replacement for Harrington, if he were to join the Nuggets. And like Harrington, I think Sully will struggle against bigger players in the paint. Neither guy is as tall as they are listed and neither guy possess major hops, but Big Al is a veteran and Sully just a rookie. We saw Carmelo Anthony's shot get blocked time-and-again at the rim and I just don't feel comfortable having another under-sized guy on the team that can't explode to the basket. Danny Fortson and Corliss Williamson were dominant players in college, but couldn't get their game to translate to the NBA in a major way. I don't want to see the Nuggets fall victim to another under-sized forward who can't adjust to the NBA game. And count me as skeptical to Sullinger's three-point shooting ability in the League too. Sure, he shot 40% from deep last season at Ohio State, but he took just one attempt per game.
3.) What kind of career do you expect from Sullinger? (Yep, prediction time!)
Pro - CombatChuk: Imagine a Kevin Love with a better jumpshot mixed with the strength of Chuck Hayes. Or a bigger Paul Millsap that can drain three-pointers and bang down low. Or even a smaller Tim Duncan that can also hit the long ball. I can see Sullinger averaging a double-double off the bench. He won't exactly be able to fly down the court like Kenneth Faried or JaVale McGee, but he will be the half-court answer the Nuggets have been looking for.
Jared Sullinger knows how to play basketball, he will always be in the right place at the right time. Teams will try keep him out in the perimeter, he'll hit the three-pointer. If you let him inside, he'll score in the post. This guy will hurt you anywhere. His game is built upon strength and skill, which will actually age well (unlike athleticism). Sullinger will be in the league for a long time. If the Nuggets want to win a championship (which I know do), they will take him and reap the rewards and we'll have a few parades Downtown in the future.
Con - Nate: You know, I can sit here and claim to know a bust when I see one, but I have no idea. If I did know, I'd be working in the NBA or selling secrets to people on some boardwalk somewhere. Like I said, I loved Sullinger during his Freshman season, he has some back issues and those scare me. I don't know what the Nuggets will do if Sully is sitting there at pick No. 20. People can point to the year the Nuggets passed on DeJuan Blair and claim they knew it was a mistake, but Sullinger is a better prospect than Blair. Can the Nuggets afford to pass on him?
We've seen Luis Scola thrive in the league without an above the rim game. Kenneth Faried figured out ways to get his shot off last season among the trees when he couldn't flush the ball. Yes, Sullinger's game scares me a bit and his injury just adds to that, but how could the Nuggets pass on a guy that was a surefire Top 5 pick in 2011 (had he come out) and a Top 10 pick until this whole "red flag" thing came up?
Thursday can't come soon enough ...
A special thank you to CombatChuk for his thought above.
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