Missing training camp and the preseason is hard on anybody, so when Kelly Olynyk struggled out of the gate upon returning from offseason shoulder surgery it wasn’t a big surprise.
After sitting out the entire offseason and the first six regular season games as well, the Canadian big man shot just 40.8% from the field and was putting up some very ugly numbers through his first ten appearances, averaging just 7.9 PPG, 4.1 RPG and 1.5 APG. All of these would have been career lows if they kept up and it looked even worse when you factored in the fact that he was averaging over 23 minutes per game, which paced him for a career high in that category. Things didn’t really get much better as Olynyk was averaging 7.7 PPG, 3.9 RPG and 1.8 APG though 28 appearances, but now everything has changed.
The rust seems to be completely off and now Olynyk is playing the best basketball of his professional career. His 29th appearance of the season marked the first game in January for the Celtics and 2017 has looked great for him – and the team – so far! Olynyk is shooting 57.5% from the floor in 19 games since the calendar flipped with a strong 39.6% mark from beyond the arc, en route to averaging 11.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG and 2.2 APG. This hot streak has pulled his season shooting percentage above 50% for the first time in his career and he’s also putting up those numbers without an uptick in minutes, playing just 22.2 MPG since the start of 2017.
These aren’t quite Sixth Man of the Year type numbers, but find me a team that wouldn’t take 11, six and two from their first big man off the bench? Everybody would take that. And we’re also past the point by now where you can say Olynyk’s hot stretch is a small sample size, because 19 games accounts for 23.2% of the regular season schedule.
We always knew that Olynyk could find ways to score, but rebounding is where he’s really shown improvement this year. The 25-year old is grabbing 20.2% of all defensive rebounds when on the floor this season – the highest number on the Celtics currently – and his 12.5 total rebound percentage is right on pace with Amir Johnson while putting him ahead of both Al Horford and Jonas Jerebko. Is he a great rebounder? No. But Boston has been so bad in that area this year and you can’t really blame that on a guy who is – percentage wise – your best defensive rebounder, especially when it’s not an area you expect him to contribute much in to begin with.