Five Things To Know About Utah's Newest Veteran: Kelly Olynyk

Ryan Kostecka
Digital Content Writer

Welcome to the snowy mountains, Kelly Olynyk.

In a trade that very few around the NBA expected, the Jazz sent second-leading scorer Bojan Bogdanovic to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for center/forward Kelly Olynyk, guard Saben Lee and cash considerations.

Among that group is Olynyk, a former NCAA All-American and NBA veteran who's one of the premier mentors in the league.

Here are five things to know about the man with the flowing hair, Olynyk:

1.) Coming From Canada
Before making his mark in college, Olynyk didn't play high school basketball in the states. 

Rather than make the jump to America, Olynyk stayed in Canada for high school. As a senior, he was named the Basketball BC outstanding high school player of the year, leading South Kamloops to a 36–2 record and a third-place finish at the BC AAA High School Boys Basketball Championships.

However, he wasn't a complete unknown to American competition. He got exposure on the AAU circuit,  eventually putting himself on the radar of college coaches. 

VICTORIA, BC - AUGUST 25: Kelly Olynyk #13 of Canada salutes the crowd in warmup during the Second Round of the FIBA World Cup 2023 Americas Qualifiers at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre on August 25, 2022 in Victoria, Canada. (Photo by Jordan Jones/Getty Images)

2.) All-American Bulldog
Despite being recruited by Syracuse, Providence, and North Carolina State, Olynyk chose Gonzaga for many reasons—one being because Spokane, Washington is just a few hours south of the Canadian border. 

After rarely seeing the court as a freshman and sophomore, head coach Mark Few and Olynyk decided that he would redshirt his junior season to become more physically prepared for the remainder of his college career. 

What a decision that proved to be. 

The following year, Olynyk was named a First-Team All-American after leading the program to its first-ever No. 1 national ranking. Although Gonzaga would fall in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, Olynyk averaged 17.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - MARCH 23: Kelly Olynyk #13 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs moves the ball in the first half while taking on the Wichita State Shockers during the third round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at EnergySolutions Arena on March 23, 2013 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

3.) First Round Pick
Olynyk parlayed his final season as a Bulldog into a first-round selection in the NBA draft, being chosen No. 13 overall by Dallas before being traded to Boston. 

He emerged as an ideal player in today's NBA, averaging 8.7 points and 5.2 rebounds in just 20 minutes per game while shooting 35.1% from beyond the arc. That led to him being named to the All-Rookie Second Team and suiting up in the 2014 Rising Stars Game.

Olynyk dropped a career-high 30 points in a 105-87 win over Philadelphia.

4.) Elite Intangibles
Entering his 10th season in the league, Olynyk is out to prove that he can still play in today's NBA.

While his skillset still makes him a hot commodity — a career 36.5% shooter from three-point territory as a 6-foot-11 center — his other intangibles made him extremely valuable to the Jazz. 

Already known as a sensational mentor to younger players in the league, it's widely believed within the Jazz organization that Olynyk will positively influence Utah's younger players — namely Jarred Vanderbilt, Walker Kessler, Udoka Azubuike, and Lauri Markkanen.

His hard-nosed defense and willingness to sacrifice for the greater good make him ideal in new head coach Will Hardy's system and should allow Olynyk to thrive in Utah. 

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH - JANUARY 21: Rudy Gay #8 of the Utah Jazz drives into Kelly Olynyk #13 of the Detroit Pistons during the first half of a game at Vivint Smart Home Arena on January 21, 2022 in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

5.) Point Guard?
Despite being a tough and physical player who can shoot from beyond the arc, Olynyk is also a very talented passer. He uses his size to his advantage, able to see over smaller players and find the open man consistently. 

But how did someone 6-foot-11 come to have a valued skill typically reserved for point guards? It's because Olynyk originally trained as a point guard growing up. 

He entered his junior season of high school at 6-foot-3 and his team's starting point guard — but by the time he arrived back as a senior, he stood 6-foot-10. Still, he never lost his guard skills, an attribute he continues to refine these days.