One of the top prospects in next Thursday’s NBA Draft, Ohio State power forward Jared Sullinger, has been medically red flagged by NBA doctors with a lower back issue and could free fall on draft day.
The issue is with Sullinger’s lower back, which is constantly swelling and is aggravated by hamstring and quad tightness, and doctors are concerned that he will not have a lengthy NBA career.
A number of NBA team doctors have reportedly reviewed this information, and have advised their clubs against drafting Sulllinger in the first round. Sullinger also struggled in agility and speed testing, and he was projected by many to slide on draft day, even before teams learned of his back issues.
If I am an NBA team and Sullinger is available in the early to mid teens, I am absolutely selecting the two time All-American, and if he slides to a good team in the mid-late first round he is an absolute steal.
Although Sullinger has his weaknesses (conditioning, athleticism, plays below the rim) he is an extremely talented player who can help a good team instantly. Sullinger is a dominant rebounder, which is the skill that translates best to the NBA, and has a great jump shot which will continue to improve. He is a throwback Charles Oakley type player, who measured bigger than expected (6’9 268lbs with a 7’1 wingspan) who has a high basketball IQ. The question becomes – at what point is he worth the risk?
If you are the Phoenix Suns with pick #13, power forward is not your biggest need, but with the best medical staff in the game do you gamble on Sullinger? Suns point guard Steve Nash had a similar back issue, theur medical staff helped him correct it, and he went on to win two NBA MVPs. The Houston Rockets have both the #14 & #16 pick, do they gamble on Sullinger with one pick and take a low risk player with the other? The Dallas Mavericks who have the #17 pick would like to get younger and tougher inside, Orlando at #19 may decide to trade center Dwight Howard, the Celtics could afford to gamble with picks #21 & #22. I cannot imagine Sullinger would fall any further than Boston, could he? Stay tuned.