BOSTON -- After Boston Celtics third-year big man Kelly Olynyk splashed his second 3-pointer on Monday night against the Washington Wizards, Boston's Twitter account sent out a note promoting Olynyk for inclusion in this year's 3-point contest with the hashtag, "#KellyFor3."
Having shuffled all the way up to No. 6 in the NBA, connecting on 43.9 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc, Olynyk is on board with the idea, particularly given how the game will be played in his native Toronto.
"That'd be fun," Olynyk said, "especially in Canada."
Asked if he considers himself a top-10 shooter from beyond the arc, the 24-year-old big man pondered the notion and said, "I never really thought of that, but I guess I am."
Olynyk's development is mildly surprising considering he shot just 35 percent beyond the arc in his first two seasons in the league. The 7-footer shot just 33 percent during his three seasons at Gonzaga, but took only 75 attempts. He arrived in Boston with the billing of a stretch 5 who could hit from deep, but few expected him to be mingling with the Steph Currys of the world in terms of 3-point percentage.
Olynyk shot right around his career average in November (35.5 percent), but since the beginning of December, he is shooting 49.4 percent and trails only the Los Angeles Clippers' J.J. Redick (51.4 percent) and the Charlotte Hornets' Troy Daniels (52.5 percent). Zoom in on the 20-game span beginning on Dec. 18, and Olynyk has shot a league-best 54.1 percent beyond the 3-point arc.
So what's changed?
"I don’t know. They’re going in," Olynyk said. "Confidence, definitely confidence and finding that. I was getting on a roll, putting the time in, obviously. After a couple years you know where shots are coming, where they’re not coming. You figure out what’s a good shot, what’s not, when you’re open, when you can get your shots off and keep being aggressive."
Added Celtics coach Brad Stevens: "He’s always been a good shooter, he’s been in a consistent good rhythm, and he works hard at it. He goes through stretches when he doesn’t shoot it well, but guys that work hard and put up a lot of shots tend to improve over time. Can you always shoot it at an elite level or have only good days? No. But for the most part shot-makers who put in that amount of time will make shots."
Olynyk said he hasn't changed his form at all, just worked on quickening his release and he's clearly been more aggressive when he gets open looks.
For the 2015-16 campaign, Olynyk is averaging 10.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 0.9 steals over 20.8 minutes per game. Those numbers are down slightly from last season, but Olynyk is playing fewer minutes per game as Boston navigates with an overstocked frontcourt. But the uptick in 3-point percentage is particularly encouraging.
The downside for Olynyk? He's struggling to convert from inside the arc (career-low 47.2 percent), though he's been better at trying to make things happen going at the rim. Olynyk has been a good team defender, but still struggles individually at times and he's a below-average rebounder for his size.
But his impact is undeniable, even if it's just the threat of shooting beyond the arc. Olynyk ranks 18th among all NBA centers in ESPN's real plus/minus metric. He's 12th among centers in offensive RPM and 17th in RPM wins. Good things simply tend to happen when Olynyk is on the court and the Celtics, even as they lean toward smaller lineups, have tried to ramp up his floor time.
There does seem to be one key factor in Olynyk's success: his hairstyle. During his first two seasons in the league, Olynyk played almost exclusively with a thin headband holding back his flowing locks. He experimented at times in summer league play with a man bun and has adopted it more often this season.
The results? As the chart below details, Olynyk is shooting 8.1 percent better overall and 7.4 percent higher beyond the 3-point arc with a man bun versus the flow through his first 44 appearances this season:
Asked if he's noticed any difference in his performance based on his hairstyle, Olynyk said, "I’ll have to think about that more." Informed of the difference in shooting percentages, he seemed to accept the data.
Said Olynyk: "So if I’m in the 3-point contest, I should wear the man bun."