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Robb: Should Celtics Stick With Kelly Olynyk In Starting Five?

BOSTON (CBS) -- Kelly Olynyk has started just three games during the 2015-16 Celtics season, but that number is poised to increase in the coming weeks.

The seven-footer was an injury fill-in in his first two starts of the year back in December, but Monday night he replaced a slumping Jared Sullinger in the starting five in Boston's 103-94 win over the Brooklyn Nets. On paper, Olynyk produced a fairly average outing: nine points, four rebounds and two assists in 34 minutes. However, his presence in the starting five helped Boston's offense jump out to a 37-point first quarter and a double-digit lead that the visitors did not relinquish.

Head coach Brad Stevens would not commit to a permanent shift in his starting frontcourt on Tuesday. Sullinger responded well to his benching with 12 points and 10 rebounds in just 18 minutes of action, making a case he deserves the starting job back.

Despite Sullinger's improved performance, the Celtics' offensive production on Monday shows that Olynyk's presence with the starters may be the best option for the unit's inconsistent production.


Players like Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder may seem like the most instrumental pieces of the Celtics roster, but make no mistake about how much Olynyk's production influences Boston's success on a nightly basis.

In the 18 Celtic wins that Olynyk has participated in this season, the third-year big man has averaged 12 points, 5.1 rebounds, 50 percent shooting from the field and 43 percent from 3-point range.

Compare that to Boston's 15 losses, and you'll find some dramatic drop-offs in the play of the Gonzaga product. His points per game average gets cut nearly in half from (12-to-6.1). The same goes for his rebounding (5.1-to-2.9). Olynyk's shooting percentages also fall off a cliff in those losses, down to 37 percent from the field and 31.6 percent from beyond the arc.

A move to the starting lineup for Olynyk will not necessarily translate to more wins on its own, but playing with a better supporting cast should increase the odds that he plays better on the offensive end of the floor. With Amir Johnson and Jared Sullinger unable to stretch the floor with their 3-point range so far this year, Olynyk provides the perimeter shooting threat that should open up more driving lanes for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and Evan Turner.

That trio's minutes need to be staggered, especially with Avery Bradley on the mend for the next couple games, but the Celtics can't keep digging themselves into early holes at the start of contests due to subpar offense from bigs. Sullinger's slump (38 percent shooting in last 10 games) has made that a recurring issue in recent weeks.

Olynyk may not be the long-term solution for the Celtics up front, but until his teammates return to full health or Danny Ainge adds another offensive weapon via trade, Olynyk is the best solution Stevens can throw at his team's recurring scoring issues.

Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter@CelticsHub.


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