Pickup of the Day: Jared Sullinger

(AP Photo / Charles Krupa)

This season I will highlight a notable player, based on the games played each night, who’s available in at least 60% of Yahoo! Fantasy Basketball leagues.

The Sneaky Fantasy Basketball Pickup for Friday, November 15 is Jared Sullinger. My friends, I told you to be wary of Brandon Bass in the long run because Sullinger wasn’t healthy to start the year. I told you Boston would want to see how Sullinger could handle starter’s minutes. I told you to hold on to your Sullinger stock. I told you he was outplaying Kelly Olynyk. I told you to get on the bandwagon. I told you the revolution was coming.

That’s right. Six times I’ve brought up Jared Sullinger in Other Notable Players without having the stones to make him the Pickup of the Day because I am a pansy conservative risk-taker in fantasy basketball, but, after last night, Sullinger leaves me no choice. He is currently owned in 14% of all Yahoo! Leagues, 3.6% of all ESPN Leagues, and 100% of my fluttering heart.

Here’s a look at his line last night against Portland:
20131115 Jared Sullinger

If you’ve already owned and been playing Sullinger for the past week and a half like I have, you’ve already been getting some usable if not spectacular numbers from him. He’d been doing it in 20-25 min while competing for playing time with Olynyk, Bass and Vitor Faverani. However, Sullinger is just more consistent than Faverani, more versatile than Bass, and more talented than Olynyk.

Boston is a team in transition (i.e. Boston is a team ready to blow up its roster at any time), and it wants to know what it has in its talent. It knows what it has in Bass and Rajon Rondo. It knows both its rookies, Olynyk and Faverani, are going to struggle adjusting to the NBA. So mainly, it wants to know what it’s got in Avery Bradley, Jeff Green and Sullinger (and now probably also Jordan Crawford) and whether it wants to keep any of them. That is why I predicted these guys would get playing time. That is why I wasn’t sold on Brandon Bass during his hot start.

(That is not why I picked Vitor Faverani as our third Pickup of the Day. Listen, that was early in the season, and honestly I’d rather just pretend it never happened.)

Is he legit? There has always been two knocks on Jared Sullinger. The first is that he has an injury history. The second is that he’s too undersized and unathletic to be a PF in the NBA. The injury concern has been very legitimate so far. He missed 37 games and all of the playoffs last year, and coach Brad Stevens has handled him with kids’ gloves this year, even sitting him out the last game after he banged his knee in practice. He still has conditioning issues and it’s very early in the season, but at least Sullinger appears to have conquered the back problems that have plagued him dating all the way back to OSU.

As for the second knock, I’m going to pull a Matthew Berry trick and show you a comparison:

Player MP FG% FT% 3P PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV
A 31.0 0.530 0.733 0.3 17.3 9.7 1.2 1.1 0.8 1.8
B 29.6 0.559 0.767 0.7 17.5 10.6 1.9 0.7 1.4 2.0

These stats look eerily similar don’t they? Player A is Jared Sullinger, and those are his stats through 74 career college games. Player B is another player who scouts considered to be too undersized and unathletic to be a PF in the NBA while he was in college, and those are his career stats through 37 career college games. Who is Player B? Kevin Love.

What does this mean? Absolutely nothing. But what am I trying to insinuate? Obviously that Jared Sullinger could be as good as Kevin Love! (Though I’m not the only one making comparisons) While that might be my irrational man-crush talking, it is worth noting that Jared Sullinger’s per-minute numbers this year aren’t terribly different than what they were last year, except that he’s scoring at nearly double the rate. Per 36 minutes, his ppg last year was 10.9. This year it’s 21.7. This corresponds with him attempting more shots from the field (9.1 vs 16.1), more threes (0.2 vs 2.9), and more free throws (2.5 vs 4.6) while shooting better percentages in all three categories (although his 28.6% from three isn’t something to brag about).

This is truly an improved Jared Sullinger we’re looking at, and he’s dying for the opportunity to prove it. An opportunity that Boston is going to give him. To sum up the way-too-long drivel above, there are only three things you need to know about Sullinger: 1. Get him. 2. Play him. 3. Stick with him.

Other Notable Players: If not for my selfish desire to over-validate my faith in Sullinger, the Pickup would be Shaun Livingston. Deron Williams injured his ankle tonight, and his status for next week is currently in jeopardy. The latest news from him is that it’s not as bad as it was when he injured the same ankle last October and sat out for a month. In the meantime, Livingston will be a good source of points, rebounds, and assists with strong percentages. His ceiling as a PG is limited, however, as he’s always been weak in steals and nonexistent in threes…Milwaukee was completely shut down by Indiana, the best defense in the league, so don’t stress too much on the low numbers because that won’t happen every night. Call it stubbornness, but I did not view Zaza Pachulia’s 4-11 line as a bust. Yes he missed 12 of 14 shots, but he took 14 shots in just 24 min. Meanwhile, John Henson did have three blocks, though only coupled it with an 8-8 in 28 min…Kirk Hinrich played 40 min with Derrick Rose out tonight. Rose will be back tomorrow. Just to let you know it’s non-news…Michael Carter-Williams didn’t play again tonight, and, while it’s no triple-double, Tony Wroten did have another good night. It seems Wroten will continue to have value while MCW is wearing a boot, which he’s still expected to be lugging around tomorrow. James Anderson, on the other hand, fell back to earth with a 2-4-5 line. I did not understand the rush to pick him up after his last game. He’s gotten regular rotational minutes all year and even played over 44 min before without much value. Hopefully the one or two people who read this column heeded my warning against him…I also don’t understand the buzz about DeMarre Carroll. He did have a good game tonight, but, same as Anderson, he’s another guy who averages over 30 mpg while doing nothing with it…On the other hand, Mo Williams has now had three effective games while playing around 30 mpg each. This is a situation worth monitoring, as Williams has always been a valuable PG when given regular minutes…Josh McRoberts is back on the radar with another solid game. He’s averaging the most assists of any C-eligible player, aside from Kevin Love, for the season (4.1 apg) and the most of any C-eligible player, period, in the last week (5.5 apg)…C.J. Miles did not have a good game, but he did get 33 min while Waiters was out sick. Considering the numbers that Miles put up in limited minutes, he could be in line for a big game tomorrow if Waiters is out again…Vince Carter has averaged a 17-3-2 with 2.7 threes since putting up a goose egg 10 days ago. He was a valuable contributor last year in Dallas with 13-4-2 and 2.0 threes, and he’s in the exact same position this year. Though he has almost no upside at this point of his career, 28% owned seems a little low considering the quality of some of the guys owned more than he is…DeJuan Blair put up a funky 9-7-5-3-2 line. Of all C-eligible players, he leads the league in spg (2.2) followed closely by the incomparable Anthony Davis (2.1)…We’ve had a J.J. Barea sighting! Unfortunately, he’s been far less helpful for the Timberwolves this year with most of the team actually healthy. Consider this game just a reminder of what he can do off the bench when given a chance, but he won’t get many this year…On the other end in that game, Timofey Mozgov fell off while J.J. Hickson put up a decent double-double. It seems coach Brian Shaw played Mozgov more in the previous game just to take advantage of match-ups. The 42% owned Hickson is still the guy to have…We had a Morris twin swap tonight. Markieff has struggled since coming back from his illness a few days ago, but Marcus Morris picked up the slack with a 13-9 and 2 threes…Boris Diaw: 17-5-2-2-2 too inconsistent for me still…Don’t look now (actually, please do, don’t just believe what I’m saying), but Richard Jefferson has actually strung together two decent games now, and he probably should have had an even better one tonight had Utah’s two starting guards decided to pass more instead of going 10-35 combined….Speaking of which, Utah will likely soon realize neither John Lucas III nor Alec Burks should be their starting PG. “Soon” as in sooner than Trey Burke is expected to return, which means recently picked up Diante Garrett could be in for an extended look…I lied about Livingston. If not for Sullinger, the Pickup today would be Jodie Meeks. Though we’ll have to change his nickname from “Mr. Consistency” to “Mr. Averages Out in the End”…Jordan Hill and Steve Blake regressed but still contributed. Don’t ask me to trust Nick Young though. I don’t trust anyone whose sole value is points. He’s Francisco Garcia without as many threes.

Top 5 Sneaky Pickups (owned in under 40% of Yahoo! Leagues): We sadly have to say goodbye to both Steve Blake and Corey Brewer today as both pass the 40% owned mark. Averaging 12.0 pts, 4.3 reb, 9.8 ast, 1.3 stl, and 2.3 3’s in the four games this past week, Blake’s been an elite PG in place of Steve Nash. Brewer’s value has been more long-term and is in his versatility. He and Wilson Chandler were the only players in the past week to average 2.0 3’s, 2.0 stl, and 50.0% FG or more.

1. Jordan Hill (37%)
2. Martell Webster (23%)
3. Jared Sullinger (14%)
4. Josh McRoberts (14%)
5. Jodie Meeks (18%)

Hindsight: Nope. No regrets here. I’m basking too much in the glow of my rewarded faith in Jared Sullinger. Come back tomorrow and ask me about Zaza Pachulia. And if Sullinger only plays 20 min and puts up single digits against Minnesota, just leave me to drown in my own tears.

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