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Detroit Pistons #DraftDreams: Jared Sullinger

Note: Ian Levy at Hickory High has started his awesome similarity scores for prospects again. I’m going back and adding links to previous #DraftDreams profiles who have similarity scores available and will continue to add them from this point forward.


  • Measurables: 6-foot-9, 265pounds, sophomore F/C from Ohio State
  • Key Stats: 17.6 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.1 blocks per game while shooting 52 percent
  • Projected: Mid to late lottery
  • Hickory High Similarity Score

Why I’m intrigued by this guy

Other than the fact that Sullinger has frequently been mentioned as a strong possibility for the Pistons if the lottery shakes out as predicted, I’ve started to become more enthused about Sullinger as he’s seemingly become more undervalued.

A year ago, had he declared, he would’ve been in the No. 1 pick conversation. When he decided to stay in school, it was assumed that he’d take another huge leap forward and cement himself as a top three pick. Instead, he improved incrementally as a sophomore, gave scouts more time to nit-pick his weaknesses and he’s plummeted towards the bottom of the lottery in most mocks. I’m at the point where, even thought he Pistons could use a more athletic player, I think Sullinger would represent pretty good value if he’s available where the Pistons are likely to pick.

Pros for the Pistons

Do you like rebounds? Because Sullinger grabbed nearly a quarter of all available defensive rebounds when he was on the floor for Ohio State the last two seasons. He gets good position on the glass and he seems to have the instincts going after the ball that most good rebounders possess.

He’s also worked on his game. His stats didn’t make a huge leap from freshman to sophomore season, but he did work to get himself into better shape as a sophomore and he did extend his range out past the 3-point line (he didn’t take a ton of threes, but he hit 40 percent of his 40 attempts out there this season after only attempting 12 threes as a freshman). Also, via Tony Manfred of Business Insider:

Once you dive into the stats, you find that Sullinger is stunningly similar to Love as a college player.

Now, I think it’s pretty crazy to draft Sullinger expecting he’ll morph into a top five player the way Love did. But Love is the best example of a player who was knocked around a bit by scouts for being short and pudgy for his position despite great production during his one college season, and that hasn’t been a problem for him in the NBA. Sullinger is short for his position and has had questions about his conditioning, but it’s hard to ignore his production, particularly on the glass.

Cons for the Pistons

As a fan of Big Ten hoops, I watched a lot of Ohio State the last two seasons. I was down on Sullinger at times, mostly because of his defense. I’m not sure he has the lateral quickness to stay in front of bigs who can put the ball on the floor. Against Michigan State, for example, Sullinger was beat off the dribble a couple times by Derrick Nix, who no one will ever mistake for Chris Bosh or Amar’e Stoudemire. The Pistons already have a porous frontcourt defense, and Sullinger won’t address that need I don’t think.

Although he blocked the occasional shot in college, he’s not the rim protector the Pistons lack, either. A Sullinger-Greg Monroe frontline certainly has its attractive qualities (boards, boards, boards), but it would also give the Pistons a starting frontcourt with really limited athleticism.

What others are saying

Chad Ford:

Sullinger has been one of the two or three most dominant big men in the NCAA the past two years. He’s a load in the paint and excels both as a scorer and as a rebounder. His thick frame allows him to get and keep great position on the block. He’s one of the NCAA’s best scorers with his back to the basket. He has a very high basketball IQ and it shows at both ends. He’s very skilled for a player his age, has terrific hands and shows advanced post moves around the basket. He also continues to improve his face-the-basket game and can even shoot the 3 when called upon. Defensively, he’s one of the top rebounders in college basketball. His 30.39 PER ranked 10th among current college players.

Nevertheless, there are major question marks for Sullinger. Despite his slimmed-down physique, Sullinger is an underwhelming athlete. He plays mostly below the rim, doesn’t move well laterally and at times still struggles with his conditioning. What complicates matters is that Sullinger is severely undersized for his most natural position (center) and even undersized for the 4 at the next level. His long arms make up some of that difference, but it’s been pretty clear for the past two seasons that Sullinger struggles when playing against length.


The biggest key to Sullinger’s dominance has been the opposition’s inability to keep him outside of the paint. While he’s lost a good deal of weight, he’s still retained all of the strength in his lower body that makes him so difficult to handle one on one. With his terrific base and low center of gravity, Sullinger is constantly working to establish better post-position down low. Tough and extremely aggressive, he’s not afraid to simply put his ass into a defender and go to work until he gets to where he wants to on the floor.


Highly refined, old school post player in a draft saturated with “potential”. His game is marked by both power and skill. Legitimate low block scorer often working his way into a high quality look (17.5 PPG on 52% FG). Master of positioning at 280 pounds and establishes early. Uses his wide body and derriere to keep defenders locked onto his hip. Tremendous lower body strength pinning his opponents into submission. Aggressively throws his weight around and unafraid to punish those in his path. Thrives on contact. Wide array of post moves on the low block, finishing over either shoulder with either hand. Footwork and understanding of angles are advanced. Soft hands and a feathery touch. Nimble elusivity for his size. He has taken strides in the face-up game, working from the elbow area in space without threat of a double. He’s a dual threat from there, either comfortably popping a mid-range jumper or attacking off the bounce with skilled handle. Quickness is not his ally, but he’s a bull in a china shop. Technically sound jump shot with smooth release.

Sports Illustrated:

“He made a good move staying in school,” one scout said. “Without all those foreign forwards in the draft next year — guys like [Jonas] Valanciunas, [Bismack] Biyombo, [Jan] Vesely, [Enes] Kanter — Sullinger can probably lock down a spot in the top five.” Evaluators will watch Sullinger’s matchups with players who have NBA-level size and length with particular interest, as the jury is still out on whether he can be an elite power forward in the pros, or just a complementary piece who uses his bulk to battle for rebounds. “He’s already a monster down low in college,” another scout said. “I think he could help himself by playing a little lighter next season, because his body was a concern coming into his freshman year, and proving he can step out into the mid-post and free-throw area and knock down shots.”

What is the best thing Jared Sullinger does for his team?

Luke Zimmerman (follow him on Twitter) writes for Land-Grant Holy Land, SB Nation’s Ohio State blog:

Sullinger is just one of those guys that makes everyone else around him better. They say “when you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all.” This goes especially for Jared, and unfortunately lends to some of his detractors who see him with the ceiling of a Kenny Thomas or have him unfairly prejudged as another Mike Sweetney. Sullinger has extremely soft hands that let him not only catch everything thrown within his general vicinity, but also lend in aiding him in finding the open teammate in the event of the inevitable double team. Yeah, he’s not a jump out the gym athlete, but neither is Kevin Love or Luis Scola. When other teammates are in a clear funk, Sully is particularly prone to take the weight of the situation on his back and do everything he can to finish smoothly around the basket and keep the offense flowing.



  • May 17, 201212:35 pm
    by Mark


    I’ve been back/forth on Sullinger. Ideally, we want an elite defensive anchor, shot-blocker, rim-protector, all of that. But after Davis and Drummond, that player doesn’t exist. So is it better to reach on a lesser talent that fits that description like a Henson, or to take an elite talent on the opposite side of the ball in Sullinger.

    Davis is the best interior defensive big man in college, but Sullinger may be the best interior offensive big man.

    I value defense over offense, and especially true for what we need. But at the same time if you can get the best interior offensive big man in the draft, isn’t that better than taking the 3rd or 4th best interior defensive big man like Henson or the others like him?

    I look at it like the Lions recent draft. They needed to get a great CB on defense, but the best player available was a WR on offense (Broyles). So instead of taking a lesser talent for defense, that would probably need to be upgraded again in the near future, they got one of the best WR’s in the whole draft, and if healthy will solidify that position for many years.

    For the Pistons, maybe next years draft is deeper in elite level defensive big men. It might be best to just take what is given this year. If the draft gives you the best interior offensive big man at #9, I think we might have to take it. Then deal with getting some defensive bigs in other ways.

    • May 17, 201211:43 pm
      by Chris H


      Has there ever been a draft that is deep in elite level defensive big men?

  • May 17, 201212:45 pm
    by Mark


    As far as Sullinger’s defense, its obviously not his strength, but OSU still managed to be a great defensive team despite that. Which says to me that he can fit into a sound team defensive system like Frank can install. He won’t be the star of the defense, but probably won’t be a liability either.

    He’s got a few things going for him too on that side of the ball, to where he could develop into a good defensive player. He’s got the weight and strength to bang with the biggest of bigs, and he’s physical, tough, and not afraid to bang. He’s got that strong base which will allow him to hold his own in the post, and he’s a great defensive rebounder, which is a huge asset to any defense.

  • May 17, 201212:59 pm
    by frankie d


    great defensive rebounding is an underrated aspect of a team’s defense.  when detroit had laimbeer and mahorn on the court, neither one was a great shotblocker, but both were excellent rebounders which helped immensely.  teams never crashed detroit’s boards and they rarely got second shots.
    sullinger and monroe could operate in the same fashion.  they would own the team’s defensive boards, even if neither was a great shotblocker.
    i’d take sullinger where detroit is picking.

  • May 17, 20121:06 pm
    by L Boogie


    Mark, I agree with you about Sully; even with henson he is tall and skinny he will get pushed around as well; but the trade off is he can alter shots unlike Sully; I am thinking about all of the centers we play, from Serge Ibaka, Bynum, Howard and even Cousins, they all have strength and so I am still concerned with henson; Myers Leonard is tall and big seems to have some strength, but I do not like his game; so it may come down to like you said take best player available if its not a big. There is one player who has nice size that not a lot of people are talking about is Andrew Nicholson, he is big, can shot, can block, I think he should draw heavy consideration; I love his highlights, reminds me of Rasheed stepping out nailing a 3, or Mcdyess, we need players like that. i can’t wait until the draft process starts.

  • May 17, 20121:56 pm
    by Desolation Row


    Sullinger would be solid. He’s a guy who can contribute immediately — and with the way a lot of careers go, do you even want “raw potential” that ends up realizing itself somewhere else? Every team would like a great big man defender — reality is that a defensive-oriented big man starter for a good team is probably not going to be found in any rookie draft beyond one or two guys. I’d be happy with a guy who doesn’t rely on his athleticism too, too many guys have their careers and games derailed because they can’t adjust to loss in athleticism (see: Blake Griffin against SA). A guy who can score in the post, rebound well, makes his teammates better and line up with another guy with the same skill set and a core of wing players and three-point shooters (Daye, CV, BG, Knight, potentially JJ)? And he can contribute right away? For a team hell bent on not tanking for elite talent, I’ll take it!

  • May 17, 20122:20 pm
    by Zach


    As a huge OSU fan, I’ve watched a lot of Sully over the last two years. He definitely struggles against guys with length and some heft (i.e., NBA centers). I think he would score against most NBA power forwards, but they are generally too fast and athletic for him to guard. I’m very interested to see if two developments from this last season continue: his weight loss and his distance jump-shooting. If Jared keeps trimming down and improving his conditioning, and extends his range to the NBA three-point line, he very well could be a Kevin Love/Elton Brand hybrid. My guess is that he falls somewhat short of that and ends up as a 30-minutes-a-game kind of post man who will give you 15 PPG and 9 RPG. A valuable offensive & rebounding weapon who gives up too much on the defensive end to be a full-fledged star.

  • May 17, 20122:22 pm
    by vic


    he doesnt fit, but if he’s the best big available, i’d take him. you could shore up your defensive talent with kyle oquinn or festus ezeli or fab melo

  • May 17, 20122:58 pm
    by Ray


    I’ve been a Buckeye fans since Jim Jackson. I believe Sullinger has a HIGH NBA CEILING, and its not based on athletism, its because on all of the fundamentals that we dont see ina large majority of big men.

    He isnt afraid of take the big shot, he has an arsenal of offensive moves with his back to the basket, and he developed such a solid face up game. Just like Love, and im not saying he will be a 27ppg 15rebs player, but like Love he will be a much better NBA player than he was in college. In college he faced double and triple teams, 2-3 zone defenses, or he limited to a posted because of the system where he occasionally struggled about taller longer players,but he Hardly was used in pick and rolls, pick and pops type plays. If Zach Randolph, Glen Davis (without dwight),and Scola can produce so can sullinger.

    But saying all that the Pistons need to get some athletes, we play too slow, and that doesnt fit Stuckey or Brandon knight

  • May 17, 20123:01 pm
    by Kris


    It’s really funny how many observers started to pick on Sullinger for his lack of athletism, etc. Meanwhile, he was certified beast on the college level. He won’t be one in the NBA, but guy is competetive, hard worker and got his head right. He’s got probably least bust potential from the players outside Top 3 and is most polished. If he could form Gasol-Z-BO/Duncan-Diaw like duo with Monroe that is good place to start.

  • May 17, 20123:19 pm
    by Marvin Jones


    I still say if you get a chance to take the rarest of rare commodities, a true center, then you do it. Leonard is no stiff, he’s got toughness, a mean streak, athleticism, post moves, 12-15 ft jumper, he’ll rebound, block shots , run the floor and defend. Of course you’ll have to be patient and develope him but he has all the tools to be a very good center in this league. The Lakers picked Bynum 14th and everybody wondered aloud why did they do that, he was a pudgy high school kid but you don’t pass up a chance to get a true center with talent and they did it the right way bringing him along and look at him now, perfect, no flawed, yes but still a force to be reckoned with. If Leonard interviews well and test out ok I think he would be a better long term solution for us than Sully 

    • May 17, 201211:56 pm
      by Chris H


      This is kind of how I feel.  Frankie D brought up Mahorn and Laimbeer, but I think that the over all athleticism of that NBA has increased since those guys played last.  I don’t think you can get away with that set up anymore unless you has some absolute monsters in your perimeter players (ie: Heat).  I doubt Detroit has or will soon be able to get those kinds of players.  In this draft it’s probably best to swing for the fences because I think that upgrading through the draft will get more difficult for this team (barring injuries) because we are pretty close to a bottom rung playoff team.  I think we have a pretty good idea about Sullinger now, I think he will be a menace to against certain players and a liability against others.  That screams 6th man to me.  That’s not what we need.  We need a starter.

  • May 17, 20123:27 pm
    by Mark


    I like the Randolph comparisons. As hard as it is to find great defensive big man, its just as hard to find consistent low-post scoring big men. We have one thats pretty consistent inside already in Monroe, but that doesn’t we couldn’t use another.

    Watching LA-OKC last night reminds you how a halfcourt team that can pound it inside with 2 great low post big men usually beats a run/gun team. Even though LA blew it at the end, their domination of the paint for most of the game had that game won for them, if not for the gaffe at the end.

    The Pistons need an identity and if we can be known as a team with a great low post scoring frontcourt that pounds you inside, with 2 athletic explosive guards on the outside, thats an identity I’ll gladly take. Athleticism in big men is good, but needs to be kept in perspective. Big men aren’t supposed to be athletic at their size. As long as you have athletic open court guards like we do, having 2 half court slowed down big men would actually compliment then perfect and allow us to do both – run and slow it down and play through the post up front.

  • May 17, 20124:35 pm
    by sop


    Don’t forget…
    1. Sullinger often drew double or triple teams on offense this year and was still THE BEST post scorer in college.
    2. He was coached not to get into foul-trouble by defending to tightly.
    3. He was coached not to expend the majority of his energy on the defensive end because he needed to be saved for his offensive production.
    4. If you can average over 9 boards a game w/o jumping in college, then you can board in the NBA too. Just watch Zach Randolph.
    5. Next to Monroe he could score a ton of points.
    6. He’s not a liability from the free-throw line and he has a solid jumper.
    7. He made huge improvements on his shooting between fresh and soph years, meaning he’s got a good practice work ethic.
    8. He’s the same height as Big Ben at 6’9” and his 7’2″ wingspan makes up for a couple inches and he’s thick, so yes he can play full time Center in today’s NBA.
    9. He’s got character and comes from a great family.
    10. He’s a winner with a winner’s aggressive mentality.

  • May 17, 20126:18 pm
    by RussellC


    If they go with Sullinger then they should find a way to trade back into the late first round to take someone like Melo or Ezeli. They still need to find a way to draft Crowder as well and I’m not sure he will be there at 39. Find a way to offload Daye and/or Tayshaun and they will be on the way back up next season.

  • May 17, 201210:28 pm
    by Corey


    I’m hoping for Leonard, but won’t be upset if we take Sullinger. In that case, my dream is that we sign Josh Smith next year as a free agent. Believe it or not, pistons can have the cap space to do it next year, if they don’t make a bad mid-level signing this year, and amnesty Gordon next year. Monroe, Josh Smith, and Sullinger would be one heck of a front court rotation.

  • May 18, 201212:14 am
    by DG


    Sullinger typifies why I don’t think the Pistons will draft a big at number 9.  He’s a talented player that doesn’t really fit the teams needs.  Pairing his lack of athleticism with Monroe’s perceived lack of athleticism does not, in my mind, make the Pistons a better team.  It gives them a defensive liability that they can’t fix without a trade.  So what’s the point?  If the Pistons go big, they need an athletic defensive player which makes Henson, short of winning the lottery and the rights to Davis, the Pistons the best big option.  The Pistons won’t draft for need over talent as Joe proved last year with Knight.  So Leonard is out unless a trade is made.  Also there will be more talented players available than Henson.  In particular I am thinking of Kendall Marshall (when is his write-up coming?).

    If I were to rank the Pistons needs I would say: a. athletic, defensive big man; b. true point guard; c. replacement for Prince.  A true point guard would make the Pistons much more potent on offense.  We could call him the anti-Prince.

    In the NBA the thing that separates players the most is having a particular special skill.  Marshall has that.  He is a special kind of passer.  And for somebody with no “offensive game of his own” his shooting percentages, outside of free throws, are quite good.  I think he can develop enough of an outside shot to keep defenders honest at some point.  He did score in double digits in 7 of his last 9 college games.

    I could see a three guard rotation of Marshall, Knight (off the bench) and Stuckey being quite a handful for opponents to deal with.  Certainly the best Piston trio since Thomas, Dumars and VJ.

    He’s also the kind of player Dumars is showing that he wants to get.  He has a high basketball iq and is  a solid citizen off the court.  I think he will be the most talented player available when the Pistons draft and has the potential to develop into a top 5 player at his position.  He also instantly makes Greg Monroe a more potent offensive force.

    The defense does need to get addressed, but I don’t think the right player is available at number 9 for that, but could be available later.  For example, I’d love to see the Pistons move back into the first round and get a Fab Melo. Melo wouldn’t have to do anything offensively other than dunk the ball.  But he could be a great defensive force relatively quickly.

    That’s my idea of the perfect Pistons draft.  Marshall and then trading back up for Melo.  Now go ahead and rip me for not drafting a big at 9.

    • May 18, 201211:14 am
      by Marvin Jones


      Joe will definitely NOT draft another point guard at 9, the T Wolves he’s not.  Check out the CBS Sportline mock draft and see what they have to say about Leonard or even Hoopshype, the guy is talented and athletic and skilled, I really don’t think it’s that much of a reach to select him at 9, most of the mocks have Houston taking him at 14. The thing about drafting for need over talent is that sometimes their is a talented player that fits your need and this is one of those times. Leonard would be my first choice followed by Henson then Zeller. Talented 7 footers are a commodity and when you can get one you need to get one.

  • May 18, 20129:41 am
    by Ray


    Dont be surprised if we draft Austin River, he has alot of Kobe and D-Wade in his game

  • May 18, 20125:04 pm
    by tarsier


    WHo would people prefer between Sullinger and Perry Jones?

    • May 19, 20126:22 pm
      by sop


      Perry Jones, but every GM would feel the same way and so if Sullinger is available at 9 then he’s a steal.

  • Jun 14, 20122:37 pm
    by Derek


    I agree with many of the posts here, I KNOW the pistons need a true defensive center but that may not be realistic at #9.

    I also have been back and forth between Sully and Henson, but Sully reminds me a lot of Corliss Williamson. Corliss was such an important part of those good pistons teams, a fearless, contact loving, yet undersized beast that nobody could really handle on the offensive end.

    Even if Sully’s defensive is too much of a liability, he could be a really good 1st big off the bench (defending other team’s not so explosive backup PFs) and fill it up with interior scoring, because we don’t have that as an option right now with all our bench bigs that play like SFs.

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