It did not take long for Jared Sullinger to find a team. Sullinger is set to sign with the Toronto Raptors, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein. Sullinger will go to the Raptors on a one-year deal, worth $6 million. It is a gamble for both Sullinger and the Toronto Raptors. One that could either work out for both parties or go up in smoke.
Sullinger, 24-years-old, played for the Boston Celtics in each of his four NBA seasons. His Celtics career has been full of ups and downs. Most of it is due to his weight; Sullinger looks bulky at a listed 260 pounds. Conditioning concerns also worried the Celtics.
It was a factor, along with a balky back, as to why he was not signed to an extension last offseason, which would have staved off him reaching NBA free agency. After the season, the Celtics did give Sullinger a qualifying offer, allowing them to match whatever offer he received on the open market. The Celtics decided to rescind that offer recently, thus making him an unrestricted free agent.
Signing Al Horford gave the Celtics the green light to pull their offer. A team with Horford and Sullinger could have worked, but teams do not sign two power forwards to long-term, big money deals.
Jared Sullinger’s free agency status had been an issue ever since the season ended. Teams were unwilling to sign him to an offer sheet out of fear that the Boston Celtics would match the deal.
By taking back their qualifying offer, the Celtics gave Sullinger the freedom to sign wherever he wanted. Even if it was on a one-year deal.
Jared Sullinger took to Twitter to thank the Celtics and the city of Boston.
— Jared Sullinger (@Jared_Sully0) July 11, 2016
Choosing to sign with the Toronto Raptors is a mild surprise. No one saw the Raptors as a team on his radar. Some of the NBA rumors had the New York Knicks as the team which could sign him.
Jared Sullinger signing with the Knicks would have improved them in terms of their depth. Depth had to be on the minds of the Toronto Raptors’ front office as well.
Jared Sullinger on a low risk one year contract is a great idea for teams that need some frontcourt help. #knicks
— New York Sports Guys (@NYSportsGuys5) July 10, 2016
Power forward Luis Scola remains unsigned. The Raptors agreeing to terms with Jared Sullinger makes re-signing Scola a lesser priority at this time. He was already coming off of his second-worst statistical season in his career. And truthfully, Sullinger is 12 years younger and can do similar things when he is healthy. Health is a concern which comes with the signing.
Another potential concern is that by adding Jared Sullinger, the Toronto Raptors did not fill a need.
Did the Toronto Raptors need another streaky shooter? That is the big question.
The Raptors are a guard dominated team. Their pair of NBA all-stars Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan like to keep the basketball in their hands as they look to make plays. Neither of them are reliable shooters from beyond the three-point line. Jared Sullinger is a slight extension of that, except for the fact that he is built like a power forward.
What the Toronto Raptors needed was an athletic shot-blocker to replace the departed Bismack Biyombo. By not having a player with those characteristics, the Raptors cannot close the gap between them and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Cleveland is the measuring stick for any team which wants to advance to the NBA Finals.
Where the Raptors gave the Cavaliers trouble was when they inserted Biyombo and allowed him to unleash his fearless rim protection. By keeping the Cavaliers off the boards and stopping easy layups, the Raptors were able to take two games in an Eastern Conference Finals when no one gave them a shot.
Jared Sullinger can be a good player for the Raptors if he is utilized correctly. He will have to have some freedom to create plays also. That requires the Raptors’ guards to trust him with the ball in his hands.
The true gamble is the one Sullinger is taking on himself.
Signing a one-year deal is risky. If he has an injury-plagued year, the deal will blow up in his face. Any season similar to his last two years with the Celtics is the ideal result.
[Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images]