Turner, Olynyk are Among NBA’s Top Super-Subs
MILWAUKEE – Those who have watched and covered the Boston Celtics this season have had a fascination with the starting lineup.
Maybe it’s time to start paying more attention to Boston’s two super-subs, instead.
Following Boston’s 99-83 win over the Bucks Tuesday night in Milwaukee, which was fueled by bench play, Evan Turner said that the Celtics have “got a lot of starters on the bench.”
He’s correct. The Celtics do have multiple starter-quality players on the bench. He’s one of them, and Kelly Olynyk is another.
Turner and Olynyk are quietly stringing together unbelievable seasons as reserves. Their seasons became even more impressive during Tuesday night’s victory.
Neither Turner nor Olynyk has started a game this season. Yet they have influenced games in a positive manner this season more than anyone else on Boston’s roster.
Turner was a stat-stuffer – which is becoming a regular occurrence – in Milwaukee. He finished the contest with 13 points, six assists, five rebounds and four steals. The Celtics outscored the Bucks by 32 points while he was on the floor, taking his plus/minus rating on the season to plus-73.
Olynyk didn’t stuff the stat sheet quite as well as his bench buddy, but he sure did make an impact while dropping 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting. His seasonal plus/minus rating is now at plus-57 after Boston outscored Milwaukee by 24 points during his 22 minutes of action.
Turner and Olynyk own the top plus/minus rating among Celtics by a landslide, and they also rank among the top bench ratings in the entire NBA. Turner’s plus-73 ranks third among all reserves. Olynyk’s plus-57, meanwhile, ranks eighth.
These two players make their mark on each game in very different ways. Turner, a swingman, is a playmaker with the ball in his hands who oozes versatility. Olynyk, a 7-footer, outduels opposing big men with skill that is typically found in guards.
Turner has been especially important to Boston this season and ever since his arrival last year. He is the team’s “Jack of all trades,” as Brad Stevens said before Tuesday’s game; a player who can excel at three different positions and do so as a starter or a reserve on any given night.
“He can do so many things,” Stevens said after the win. “A lot of people concentrate on the things people can’t do. He can do a lot of things… a lot of things well.
“He’s shooting the ball well, too. He’s a reliable ball handler. He’s a very reliable defender.”
Turner is shooting 42.6 percent from the field and 30.8 percent from long range this season. He believes those numbers should be higher, noting that he should have about 10 to 15 more makes on the season, but does agree with his coach that his shot is in rhythm.
“It feels good,” said Turner, who even nailed a half-court heave as he was fouled Tuesday night. “I just work on it a lot and my teammates find me and make sure I get my rhythm right and it goes in.”
Shooting happens to be one of Olynyk’s game-changing strengths as well. As Stevens said of Olynyk’s impact, “I just think that [his] ability to space the floor demands that he’s guarded.”
And when Boston decides to go “small,” with Olynyk playing the 5, it offers five players who can shoot, pass and dribble on the perimeter. As was displayed yet again Tuesday night, such a lineup is nearly impossible to defend.
“We pushed it out a little bit there when we had Jonas (Jerebko) and him in at the 4 and the 5,” Stevens said of Tuesday’s game, “because they had their 5 on Jonas and their 4 on Kelly.
“Kelly did a good job on the glass on a couple of plays but also was getting to the basket and those type of things, and then Jonas was the one spotting up. That was a good thing for us, and we’ll continue to use that lineup.”
Stevens is known for making intelligent decisions, and this is another one. Boston has been at its best when Turner and Olynyk have been on the floor and surrounded by guys like Jerebko and Isaiah Thomas. As Olynyk says, these secondary units are operating as one.
“I would say a team attitude (is propelling the second unit’s success],” Olynyk commented. “We’re going out there and making plays for each other, playing for each other at both ends of the floor.”
Team ball has been an emphasis for Boston this season. However, it’s impossible to ignore the individual impact that Turner and Olynyk have made.
Start paying attention to these two super-subs. Turner and Olynyk’s raw numbers aren’t always sexy, but their effectiveness certainly is.