Boston Celtics second-year big man Jared Sullinger averaged one 3-point attempt per every nine games he played during his rookie campaign. With the notion that a quality 3-point shot is inherently more efficient than a long 2-point attempt, Celtics first-year coach Brad Stevens has implored Sullinger to take more triples this season and he's obliged.
Jared Sullinger's 3-point shooting chart.Through 15 appearances, Sullinger is averaging 2.3 attempts per game this season. And despite connecting on just 26.5 percent of those attempts thus far, Stevens remains steadfast in wanting Sullinger to fire away.
“I don’t think he shoots enough of them. And I’ve said that all year," said Stevens after Boston made a spirited late-game charge against the Grizzlies on Wednesday night with Sullinger scoring 17 fourth-quarter points, which included a pair of triples to spark the rally within one possession. "He passed up a couple [against Memphis], he passed up the one where he traveled at the top of the key; he was wide open. And the more games he gets under his belt, the more he plays, that shot’s going to go in more often than not. From a percentage standpoint, he’s a really good shooter, just him and the rim. And he had that opportunity. We were running things for him at the end of that game, to see if we couldn’t get him a look."
According to Synergy Sports data, 18 of Sullinger's 3-point attempts this season have come in what the stats site designates as unguarded catch-and-shoot situations. He's connected on just three of them (16.7 percent), but Sullinger consistently makes those undefended shots in practice, which is why Stevens remains convinced it will become a weapon.
Stevens believes Sullinger's ability to drift back behind the 3-point line off pick-and-roll situations could create favorable matchups for the Celtics.
"Well, here’s the biggest thing: The first question you ask when you’ve got a guy who can make 3s is, ‘Can you switch him?’ And you can’t switch [Sullinger]," said Stevens. "There’s no plausible way to do that because he’s so good in the post. A lot of 3-point shooters aren’t very good post players. So if he can continue to develop that part of his game, that could really help us.
"It’s the same thing –- I want Vitor [Faverani] to feel comfortable shooting it as well, Kelly [Olynyk] when he gets back to feel comfortable shooting it as well, and that’s another element. And even [Kris Humphries]. Hump doesn’t shoot it quite to the 3-point line on top, but he can shoot it to 17-18 feet like [Brandon] Bass, and they’re pretty good from that range."
Sullinger admits he's still finding a comfort level with taking that 3-point shot, particularly when defenses give him that space. As his confidence grows in that shot, he'll take it without as much hesitation and likely make a higher percentage.
"[Stevens] constantly tells me to take the open shot," said Sullinger. "And he’s always in my ear about shooting the ball. Sometimes I feel comfortable shooting, sometimes I don’t. I think it’s just the mindset, I gotta understand if they are going to give me that shot, I’m going to take it."