Amongst prospects with a chance to crack the lottery, seldom do we see them take the same path that has been led by Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga’s breakout center. After two mediocre years in Spokane, Olynyk took a healthy redshirt for the ’11-’12 season to develop physically and work on his game. And after sitting out for a season, Olynyk returned to action not only as perhaps the nation’s most improved players, but also one of its best. There is not a post scorer in the country as efficient as Olynyk, who led the WAC with a 62.9% shooting percentage and recording the highest single-season PER of any player in the last four years. Olynyk has great touch around the rim, but scores at such a consistent rate because of his versatility for his size. He has a polished arsenal of back-to-the-basket post moves, particularly when beginning from the left block and working to his left shoulder. He utilizes strong lower-body leverage to get strong post position, sealing off his man and getting a touch with deep post position. But Olynyk is most comfortable when facing the hoop from the high post, where he can attack with the dribble and take advantage of his strong agility to get around his man. From the high post, he is also effective in pick and pop scenarios, where he can knock down a jump shot from the midrange if he has time to set his feet. Olynyk is also versatile in that he can play at any pace, scoring from the low and high post with physical play in half court sets, or getting easy baskets by running the floor well for a player of his size. Olynyk’s superb offensive motor is most evident on the offensive glass, where he relentlessly follows every shot of his from in close, creating an extra opportunity or two per game because of his quick second leap. Olynyk is also a very good free throw shooter, an important trait for a player with his offensive skill and ability to score from multiple spots on the floor.
Because Olynyk has made such a meteoric rise in the draft rankings over the course of the season, praise of his breakout has been much more publicized than any criticism of his game. But with the season now over, and with people going back to watch some of Olynyk’s game tape, the holes in his game are starting to gain some more notice than they did over the course of the season. The biggest issue that many scouts point to in Olynyk’s game is his lack of elite athleticism. For all of his versatility on the offensive end, Olynyk is not the type of player that is consistently finishing above the rim. A lot of his attempts come from off-balance looks where he is fading away from the basket. Olynyk has to show improved strength and balance in the lane to make up for his lack of great athleticism. He got his shot blocked a lot at the college level, a concern considering that the talent level in the WAC this year was lower than it usually is. Olynyk is still also prone to turning the ball over, as he needs to improve his ball handling in traffic to continue to thrive as a forward in face-up scenarios. Olynyk also needs to continue to improve his midrange jump shot, as he currently shows good form but does not have the volume of attempts to be considered a consistent midrange shooter.
Kelly Olynyk is a very solid defensive player, bringing the energy and motor he displays on the offensive end and carrying it over to the other side of the ball. Olynyk does a nice job of competing for position in the post, preventing his man from establishing deep post position or fronting with his length to deny an easy touch on the block. Olynyk does not have the natural athletic ability to be an elite defensive player, but he showed in college and should continue to be a reliable defender that will stay committed to keeping his man in front of him. Olynyk plays very hard in the post before the entry pass is made, and has enough strength and agility to keep his man from getting an easy look once he does get a touch down low.
While Olynyk has the work ethic and is clearly very coachable, his level of athleticism seems to limit his overall upside on the defensive end. Olynyk does not have great foot speed or lateral quickness, but is also not particularly strong for a player that will be asked to guard power forwards or centers. He struggles to stay in front of his man when he is asked to leave the paint, and is backed down into the post without much resistance once his man is able to get a touch. Olynyk has to improve his defense against ball screens, struggling at times with switches and leaving himself susceptible to the drive because of his tendency to hedge too far. For a legitimate seven-footer, Olynyk does not do a great job of protecting the rim and blocking shots from the weak side. His block rate jumped drastically this year, as did most of his numbers, but are still not at the level that most teams expect out of a starting center.
Gonzaga center Kelly Olynyk, a skilled but overall unproductive prospect in his first two years, played as well as any post player in the nation this past year and drastically improved his stock for the upcoming draft. His top overall skill is his versatility on the offense. Olynyk is a productive back-to-the-basket scorer with plenty of effective post moves, but is probably at his best attacking with a dribble when facing the basket from the high post. Olynyk has an elite shooting touch around the rim that made him the most efficient scorer in the NCAA this year. He can score in the half court from the low post, high post, or midrange, but also has enough agility for a seven-footer to run the floor and contribute in transition. Olynyk is relentless on the offensive glass, with a quick a second bounce that creates extra opportunities for himself or others. Olynyk is not an elite athlete, and has to add strength to keep his shot from getting blocked at the next level. He is also a solid defender, but has limited upside on that end of the floor, and also has to improve as a defensive rebounder. But Olynyk has clearly displayed a strong work ethic and a high level of coachability, and as a skilled big man with a versatile scoring game, has a chance to crack the lottery in the upcoming draft.