Some fans in Boston love Kelly Olynyk and some fans hate him.
In the end, a lot of them have this love/hate relationship with him where they’re on their feet at the TD Garden chanting “Kelly! Kelly!” over those random games where he doesn’t miss a shot over some ten minute stretch and explodes for a 15 point quarter while they boo him over all those three point nights where he shoots 1-for-6 from the floor, commits five fouls over ten minutes and has three or four easy rebounds slip through his hands.
Love him or hate him, Olynyk has done well when you stack him up against many of his peers from the embarrassingly bad 2013 draft class. This group featured Anthony Bennett at the top of the class and has a number of complete misses throughout the first round. The Canadian center emerged right away from this garbage heap of a class and was named Second Team All-Rookie.
All of these players are now set to become restricted free agents with their four year rookie contracts set to end and it would seem like Olynyk has even done better then the group of five guys ahead of him in the All-Rookie team voting.
Let’s just get the only guy on this list that Olynyk hasn’t passed in terms of rookie contract success out of the way first. Oladipo – who finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting that season – has turned into a solid offensive piece. His scoring, rebounding and assists all took a hit this past season after getting traded from the Orlando Magic to the Oklahoma City Thunder, but sharing a backcourt with Russell Westbrook will do that to almost any shooting guard in the league. While his per game averages took hits across the board, Oladipo still shot a career best 44.2% from the field and 36.1% from beyond the arc. Realistically, you’re still probably not going to win a championship with a guy like Oladipo averaging 33 minutes per game, which is something he’s done in each of the past three seasons. Oladipo is honestly best off as a guard version of Olynyk, a guy who comes off the bench for 20-25 minutes and gets you some buckets here and there.
If you ever need a reason why it’s wrong to judge somebody after just one season in the league, here is a great example! He blew away his entire draft class in that first season by averaging 16.7 PPG, 6.3 APG, 6.2 RPG and 1.9 SPG en route to receiving 104 of the 116 first place votes for Rookie of the Year. Carter-Williams was seen as a pure athlete who had great size for the position at 6’6″ with a 6’8″ wingspan and his combination of size, speed and skill had many people feeling like this was a star in the making. Fast forward to today and Carter-Williams is already on this third team as his rookie contract comes to an end. He averaged 6.6 PPG for the Chicago Bulls during the regular season and then proceeded to score a grand total of just 14 points over six games in their first round series against the Celtics. This looks even worse on him because he had trouble cracking the playoff rotation even after starting point guard Rajon Rondo went down with a hand injury and missed the final four games.
There was a massive Trey Burke hype train going for a while. He was the reigning Naismith College Player of the Year coming out of Michigan and immediately made an impact playing for the Utah Jazz. Burke also won the Skills Competition at All-Star Weekend in his rookie year, which could have added a little steam to the engine of that hype train even though it’s kind of meaningless in the end. Like they did with Carter-Williams, the Celtics also saw Burke in the playoffs this year and his impact on the series was even smaller. After not seeing any playing time in the Washington Wizards first round series against the Atlanta Hawks, Burke was a pure garbage time player in their second round series against Boston. He played only 20 minutes in the series across three games that were all decided by 19 points or more.
Olynyk was actually might have been robbed by Plumlee for a First Team All-Rookie spot during the 2013-14 season after he posted higher scoring and rebounding averages, but the fact that Plumlee was still averaging 7.4 PPG and 4.4 RPG on a 44-win Brooklyn Nets team as opposed to a 25-win Celtics team could have been a factor in everything. He’s turned himself into a reliable starting center over these past four years, but he’s pretty much what Tyler Zeller was for Boston back in the 2014-15 season when Zeller was the team’s starting center. Zeller averaged 11.0 PPG and 6.1 RPG in games he started that season and nobody ever really felt like that was anything special, Plumlee has averaged 10.2 PPG and 7.1 RPG across starts in his career with total averages of 9.0 PPG and 6.5 RPG. He’s not anything special and this is a reason why he’s found himself on three different teams over the first four years of his career, while Olynyk at the very least has some game changing ability. This was on full display in game seven of the Eastern Conference Semifinals and you also get a handful of regular season games each year where the guy just explodes and becomes a scoring machine.
Tim Hardaway, Jr.
Give Hardaway all the credit in the world because he just had a great bounce back season with the Hawks in which he averaged a career high 14.5 PPG. Things hadn’t been looking up for him after his strong rookie season, which caused the New York Knicks to give him away after a bad “sophomore” campaign and he found himself averaging just 6.4 PPG in a year that included 20 healthy scratches and 11 DNP – Coach’s Decisions. It once seemed like he was another Carter-Williams or Burke-type guy who was just going to vanish after a strong rookie campaign, but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. He still doesn’t do much else outside of score and that scoring average was with him getting seven more minutes per game than Olynyk. Just like Oladipo, you probably aren’t going to make too many deep playoff runs with Hardaway as your starting shooting guard and he’s probably better served in an Olynyk-like bench role. Hardaway averaged 33.3 MPG in the playoffs for Atlanta – well above his 27.3 from the regular season – but his scoring average dropped to 12.8 in the postseason.
Olynyk was named Second Team All-Rookie that year along with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Gorgui Deng, Cody Zeller and Steven Adams. It would be silly to simulate some sort of five-on-five game between these two teams because this one includes four centers, but you have to feel like this second squad has better players and it’s not even close. Both Adams and Zeller still seem to be on the upswing as they each just had career years while Antetokounmpo has clearly established himself as the best player from this draft class and still remains the group’s only All-Star.
A lot of these First Team players benefitted from joining bad teams. Plumlee was the only one of them to make the playoffs and even he joined a team with no depth after they essentially traded their entire crappy bench – along with a load of draft picks – to the Celtics that offseason to get Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, which ensured that he’d at least have a solid role in the rotation.
Olynyk did benefit from that too as he joined a pretty bad Celtics team following that trade but the impressive thing is how he’s stuck with it even as the team grows and develops. They’ve added big men around him like Al Horford, Tyler Zeller, David Lee and Amir Johnson over time but no matter what happens he’s there shinning in his niche role coming off the bench.
Does the man have his shortcoming as a player? Of course; every role player does. But he’s had consistent value for the same team throughout his rookie deal where a lot of the guys who were top rookies off the are either non-factors already or have reached journeyman status.
If the Celtics can’t afford him this summer because they have bigger fish to fry, he’ll be missed.