There are no sure things in any NBA draft. The parquet floors of the NBA are littered with the shattered hopes and dreams of top draft picks.
But there's good reason for Celtics fans to be optimistic about center/power forward Kelly Olynyk. And let's face it, with the departure of Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett, Boston fans are searching for a silver lining.
Here's why Celtics general manager Danny Ainge traded up in the draft in order to get Olynyk.
Olynyk's no Kevin Garnett but he brings some needed size inside. At 7 feet, 234 pounds, he's a presence in the paint. He's smart (the son of a coach). He's a very efficient shooter, especially inside.
"This season, he took 63% of his shots at the rim and made 73% of them. Owning a variety of weird moves in the post, Olynyk has found many ways to be one of the most efficient players in the country, as he leads the NCAA in PER [Player Efficiency Rating] at 36.2.," points out Sam Vecenie of SB Nation.
There are some who suggest that Olynyk may be a one-season wonder. He red-shirted in his junior year at Gonzaga to bulk up to play the post position. That turned out to be an intelligent move. He also has some international experience under his belt because he played with Canada's national basketball team while they were preparing for the Olympics.
While he's built to play the post, he's also got a 20-foot jump shoot – something every successful big man in the NBA has today.
Well, Kevin O'Connor of the Celtics Blog on SB nation is blunt in his assessment:
"His defensive game is nonexistent and he lacks the athletic tools to improve there. He's also not very good on the boards and gets pushed around despite his size. Olynyk lacks the athleticism to move side-to-side defensively, making him a liability in the pick-and-roll. Despite standing at 7-feet tall, he hasn't shown the ability to be a good rebounder at the next level."
Still, on balance, O'Connor likes Ainge's choice (O'Connor's full assessment of Olynyk here).
Taking his strengths, weaknesses, and long, floppy locks into account, what makes Olynyk a good fit for the Celtics?
Ainge is reportedly rebuilding the team around Rajon Rondo – the one player he says he won't trade – as well as Jeff Green and Avery Bradley. Ainge will likely use Jared Sullinger and Olynyk to fill the big power-forward shoes left by the departing Kevin Garnett.
There's no question that this will be a rebuilding year for the Celtics. They will lose a lot of games, and fans will pine for the days of Rivers, Garnett, and Pierce.
But what Ainge finds appealing about Olynyk is that, unlike a lot of college draft picks, he can play in the NBA now. He has the size and shots. But he also has some room for improvement.
Boston.com sports writer Gary Dzen lists five reasons the Celtics took Olynyk, including this one:
"Olynyk is unorthodox, but he's gotten it done at a very high level for Gonzaga. There are two schools to drafting, and the Celtics seem to be moving away from the school of best athlete wins the day. JaJuan Johnson, who was the Celtics' pick in the 2011 draft, had the body but never developed the game.... On the other side, Jared Sullinger, Glen Davis, and Nate Robinson are examples of unorthodox Celtics players who have produced. Boston knows Olynyk can play."
And Olynyk's coach at Gonzaga, Mark Few, tells the Boston Herald's Tom Layman that his former big man has the intangibles to succeed with the Celtics.
“I think he’s a highly competitive person and player,” Few said. “I think it’s not something he will fear and it will be something he will look forward to. You just put him on the floor and he’s going to do whatever it takes to win.”