Five years after being selected by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the NBA Draft, Jared Sullinger is signing a two-month, $300,000 deal to play basketball in China for the Shenzhen Leopards.
NBA free-agent Jared Sullinger signed a two-month, $300,000 deal in China with the Shenzhen Leopards, source tells me.
— David Pick (@IAmDPick) September 12, 2017
If you would have asked Sullinger where he’d be five years later on draft night, he probably would have said in Boston playing for the Celtics. There was no reason to doubt his chances of succeeding in a league that has always valued big men. Even with the NBA moving away from the center-dominant offensive mold that has been so prevalent in the past, he still had plenty to offer an NBA team willing to take a look at him.
He was a decent rebounding presence capable of averaging double-digit points in a season. That makes his rapid decline even more of a head-scratcher. What could have possibly gone so wrong that teams would pass up on a 25-year-old forward who appeared to have a high ceiling when he entered the league?
One of the issues the Celtics and other teams had with Sullinger was his tendency to take bad shots. He was also missing good shots. His shooting was never consistent enough to earn a defense’s respect in the NBA. Some of that could have been due to his weight problems. His slow and sluggish maneuvering on the floor was a direct result of being on the heavier side for a forward. That never changed over the course of his short NBA tenure.
Teams stopped trusting that he’d lose the weight. Even if he wanted to lose the weight, it was hard to trust he’d be available given his extensive injury history.
The league spat him out as quickly as it accepted him.
“Everything didn’t work,” Sullinger told The Comeback in July. “And then all of a sudden, I had a mental breakdown because for the first time in my life, something didn’t work for me… I was in tears, I was crying. Because I just didn’t know what I could do to help myself to be a better basketball player, for me to be healthy.”
Another opportunity to turn things around awaits Sullinger in China. Perhaps he can change his image enough to bait some NBA team into giving him a chance. If he can stay healthy, there is still plenty of raw potential left to be harvested by a patient coaching staff. But he’ll have to act quickly.
The NBA’s patience appears to be wearing thin.