Jared Sullinger’s Back Bears Watching, But Rebounding Skills Are Indispensable (Poll)

Tyler Hansbrough, Jared SullingerIf there was ever a rookie tailor-made for last season’s Celtics, it was Jared Sullinger.

Sullinger, a coach’s kid from Ohio, came into the NBA ready to contribute to a winning team. He fit in well with the veteran group, earning the instant respect of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Doc Rivers. Not many young players — or older players, for that matter — have been able to say that.

Sullinger’s first season was cut short by a nagging back injury that finally forced him to get the surgery he had been putting off for years. Both the Celtics and Sullinger sound confident that the surgery fixed the problem, and he has been back on the court for months, working out and preparing for the 2013-14 season. The Celtics are buried in questions up front, where Kelly Olynyk and Fab Melo are works in progress and Kris Humphries is coming off a horrible year in Brooklyn. Sullinger may be the safest bet of the bunch, even coming off back surgery.

The Celtics should be in no hurry to move Sullinger, who is not eligible for even restricted free agency until 2016. Yet his value remains fairly high. Just 21 years old, Sullinger could grow into one of the NBA’s top rebounders. If some team buys the Celtics’ story that surgery solved Sullinger’s problem, it might also be willing to part with a draft pick for him. Of course, if Sullinger suffers a setback, his stock could plummet as fast as it did on draft night last year.

While the Celtics would be crazy to deal a healthy young power forward who appeared to be light years ahead of many of his rookie classmates, they need to evaluate just how confident they are in the “healthy” part of that equation. Is Sullinger’s value as high as it will ever be? Vote in the poll below.

To kick off the official start of the NBA offseason, NESN.com will ask fans whether they think the Celtics should keep or move on from each player. The following day, we will provide the fans’ verdict. Here is the schedule*:

Thursday, July 11: Avery Bradley (Verdict: Keep him, 88 percent)
Friday, July 12: Brandon Bass (Verdict: Keep him, 59 percent)

Monday, July 15: Rajon Rondo (Verdict: Keep him, 67 percent)
Tuesday, July 16: Courtney Lee (Verdict: Move on, 52 percent)
Wednesday, July 17: Shavlik Randolph (Verdict: Keep him, 60 percent)
Thursday, July 18: Jeff Green (Verdict: Keep him, 92 percent)
Friday, July 19: Gerald Wallace (Verdict: Keep him, 51 percent)

Monday, July 22: Kris Humphries (Verdict: Keep him, 53 percent)
Tuesday, July 23: Keith Bogans (Verdict: Keep him, 62 percent)
Wednesday, July 24: Fab Melo (Verdict: Keep him, 53 percent)
Thursday, July 25: Jared Sullinger
Friday, July 26: Kris Joseph

Monday, July 29: MarShon Brooks
Tuesday, July 30: Jordan Crawford
Wednesday, July 31: D.J. White Phil Pressey
Thursday, Aug. 1: Colton Iverson
Friday, Aug 2: Kelly Olynyk

*Subject to change pending any moves

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