Scouting Kelly Olynyk

Monday, May 20, 2013
By Jaryd Wilson

NCAA Basketball: Old Spice Classic-Clemson vs Gonzaga

As we get approach the 2013 NBA Draft, we are reaching out to local experts to help us scout some of the players the Hawks may take in the first round.  We had Zach Bell from SB Nation’s The Slipper Still Fits help us scout Gonzaga center Kelly Olynyk.

What are his strengths? Weaknesses?

Kelly’s main strength and the reason he is being discussed as a potential lottery pick is his versatility. He can score from any spot on the floor and has a tremendous knack for putting himself in the right position on offense. A very underrated facet of his game is how well he moves off the ball and how aggressively he moves toward the basket. A lot of this can be attributed to Mark Few’s offensive sets which force players to consistently be on the move, which brought out the best in Kelly. Because of his phenomenal skill set, he’s insanely efficient. He shot 63 percent from the floor last season and scored about 18 points per game in just 26 minutes.

I would say as it relates to the NBA, his main weakness is his lack of explosiveness. Many Gonzaga fans were underwhelmed by his rebounding ability last season, and it is somewhat justified. While he is remarkably athletic for his size, he never really showed the ability to become a dominant rebounder as he averaged just seven boards per game in the West Coast Conference. Similarly, their are concerns about his defensive presence, especially against physical competition. While Gonzaga has produced outstanding offensive players (Adam Morrison, Austin Daye for example), their lack of physicality on the defensive end has really impacted their NBA careers, so it will be interesting to see how that plays into Olynyk’s stock.

What did he add to his team in college? What do you think he’ll bring to an NBA team?

He was the main reason for Gonzaga’s remarkable regular season success last year. Most don’t realize Olynyk’s unreal rise to prominence and how rare a story like his is. He played two very mediocre seasons at Gonzaga prior to taking a redshirt season and then absolutely exploded last year. No one saw it coming, and he took a very solid Gonzaga team to a whole new level. Many, including myself, expected him to play a small role on the team last year, and he proved to be the most consistent force on the Gonzaga roster.

Whatever NBA team selects Olynyk will be getting a scary offensive contributor that is still improving. As a possible lottery pick, Olynyk is already very polished, but he is still getting used to being a big man. He will absolutely improve defensively in the NBA if he continues working like he did in college, and I truly think the sky is the limit for him.

What kind of style is he best suited for?

As I said in the first answer, Mark Few’s style suited Kelly so well. A fluid offense that allows their big men to put the ball on the deck and attack the rim is what Kelly needs. He is also tremendous and running the floor which is why a system like Denver’s jumps out to me. If Kelly is chosen by a team that wants to run out the shot clock each time down the floor and simply use him with his back to the basket in the low post, I don’t think he will find much success. He can absolutely make an impact in a slower offense, but he can truly star in a fast-paced system.

What sets him apart from other draft prospects at his position?

Kelly’s biggest asset in this draft is that he possesses an already refined skill set and a high ceiling for improvement. Looking around at the rest of the big men in this draft, I don’t think anyone is better than Kelly in this regard. Guys like Nerlens Noel have massive potential, but there are questions about when they will actually impact the game offensively. On the other side of the spectrum, you have players like Mason Plumlee and Cody Zeller who I would argue don’t have a very high ceiling in the NBA. They will likely both be solid career players, but the potential for stardom doesn’t appear to be there.

What NBA player would you compare him to?

Admittedly I don’t watch nearly as much NBA as I do college, but his style of play is similar to guys like Pau Gasol, Spencer Hawes, and other versatile big men that stretch the floor but will never be confused for true ‘bangers’. Whether or not his career has the trajectory of a Gasol remains to be seen, but from a pure skill set comparison, I think those players are fair comps.

What’s your favorite memory of him at Gonzaga?

Such a tough question because about three times a game, Kelly made plays where you could only shake your head and wonder how. With that said, I think my favorite memory of him at Gonzaga was the Washington State game this season. Olynyk scored 22 points, all of which came in the second half. There wasn’t one moment that stood out from that game, but I think it was the first time when Gonzaga fans realized ‘whoa, this guy is for real’. Obviously, he only improved from that moment.

Here’s what some of the national mock drafts are saying about Olynyk: Analysis: Olynyk is a polished scorer who can play in the post and step away for jumpers. But the question remains whether he can rebound and defend at an NBA level. Analysis: … Olynyk was the most efficient big man in college basketball… Analysis: Part of the wave of Canadian prospects in recent years, with Bennett this season, Olynyk has an advanced offensive game for a big man. He has the ability to score from the post and the perimeter.

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