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Oklahoma City Thunder: Gonzaga product Kelly Olynyk has height, scoring ability that OKC fans crave

Projected NBA Draft lottery pick Kelly Olynyk, who is listed as a 7-foot center, averaged 17.8 points on 62.9 percent shooting in his junior season. He led the Bulldogs to a 32-3 record this season, 16-0 run through the West Coast Conference and Gonzaga's first No. 1 ranking in school history.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: June 9, 2013

Olynyk's skill set stems from his childhood, when he played point guard before a seven-inch growth spurt shot him from 6-3 to 6-10 in the 11th grade. Although he was highly recruited coming out of Canada, Olynyk burst onto the national scene this season only after learning to blend his perimeter background with post skills that fit his big man's body.

For Olynyk, that transformation required an unusual redshirt year following his sophomore season. Olynyk had averaged just 4.8 points in 12.9 minutes during his first two seasons while playing behind future second-round pick Robert Sacre. The 2011-12 season would have been much of the same squeeze on minutes.

“I think he also realized that he wasn't quite where he wanted to be physically or maybe quite with his skill development, and he and I weren't on the same page,” Few told reporters during the NCAA Tournament.

Few wanted Olynyk to play like a post player. Olynyk didn't know how.

“I had never done it,” Olynyk told Sports Illustrated in March. “It was like telling a quarterback to go kick a field goal.”

But the year of watching allowed Olynyk to learn. He played on the scout team and got to see the game from a different perspective. He got stronger and got in the post.

“He grew up and his game grew up,” Few said. “In the past, he was a little out of control and made a lot of turnovers. Now, he is in control and his game is more mature.”

by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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12 for the 12th pick

As part of the James Harden trade with Houston last October, the Thunder obtained the No. 12 overall selection in the June 27 NBA Draft via Toronto. Leading up to the draft, we'll take a look at 12 potential candidates the Thunder might consider taking with that No. 12 pick. Today: Gonzaga center Kelly Olynyk.


Height: 7-foot

Weight: 234

Birth date: April 19, 1991

Hometown: Scarborough, Ontario

School: Gonzaga

Class: Junior

2012-13 stats: 18.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.7 apg, 1.1 bpg, .631 FG, .780 FT

Strengths: Has great size and offensive skills for a big man. Very mobile and coordinated. Can score in numerous ways, either with his back to the basket, facing up, putting the ball on the floor or out of the pick-and-roll. Finishes with both hands.

Weaknesses: His defense needs a lot of work. Not a shot blocker. Limited lateral quickness makes it difficult for him to contain the ball in both isolations and pick-and-rolls. He doesn't rebound well. Lacks explosiveness. He needs to get stronger to hold post position. Turnover prone.

How he could help the Thunder: He wouldn't start from Day 1. You can forget about that. But down the line, Olynyk could provide a bit of the post scoring so many Thunder fans covet. At this point, however, it's not out of the realm of possibility that Olynyk becomes more of a jump shooter in the NBA than a back-to-the-basket weapon. If nothing else, Olynyk could be a good pick-and-roll option.

Projections: No. 11 (,,; No. 12 (; No. 14 (; No. 21 (

Quotable: “It's so fun to play with Kelly. He's an easy guy to play with. He doesn't demand the ball too much, but he makes himself available, whether it's off a pick-and-roll or any set that we run. He can do so many different things. He's versatile.” — Gonzaga point guard Kevin Pangos.


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