Barry Jackson

Two scouts assess Heat addition Olynyk; Olynyk nuggets

Chicago Bulls' Jerian Grant defends Boston Celtics' Kelly Olynyk (41) during a first-round NBA playoff basketball game in Boston. The Miami Heat struck a four-year deal with Olynyk, a free agent.
Chicago Bulls' Jerian Grant defends Boston Celtics' Kelly Olynyk (41) during a first-round NBA playoff basketball game in Boston. The Miami Heat struck a four-year deal with Olynyk, a free agent. AP

Chatter on 7-foot center/power forward Kelly Olynyk, who agreed to a four-year, $50 million contract with the Heat on Thursday night:

• I asked two longtime NBA scouts this morning to assess his game and his fit with the Heat. The scouts requested anonymity because they are not authorized by their teams to speak.

Their feedback:

Scout No. 1: “Good signing. Not very athletic but very smart. He can obviously shoot. Above-average passer. Kind of got a funky game. I don't think defensively he's great. At best, he is an average defender. Average rebounder. He is a stretch four or five. Not a postup guy. He’s not really a driver. He’s a passer and a three-point guy.

“Four years for $50 million for a big guy, a rotation guy or starter, is a good deal. You can argue he should have gotten James Johnson’s deal (four years, $60 million), and James should have gotten Olynyk’s. He can be a key rotation player on good teams.

“Is he more than an average starter is the question to me? I like him better as your third big in a perfect world. But they have pretty good depth there.”

Scout No. 2: “I would have paid him $8 million per year, not [a bit over $12 million]. They overpaid but that’s what you have to do today. Solid NBA player. A role player. I don't think he’s a legit starter on a good team. Coming off the bench is where his strength is. You need better players on the floor with him to compete for a playoff spot.

“He's a pretty good perimeter shooter, not a great one. For his size, he can stretch the defense. Sets good screens. Good pick and roll player. A good passer.

“Not very good defensively. He has a hard time guarding big guys inside because he has slow feet. He can’t score in the post. Best as a backup rotational player on a good team.”

• I asked them who would be better suited to start alongside Hassan Whiteside - Olynyk or James Johnson.

Scout No. 1: “Olynyk is the better option because he’s the better shooter. He will give Whiteside room to operate. That’s a better match than Johnson. You are giving up a little defensively with Olynyk instead of Johnson, but Whiteside can cover for Olynyk's mistakes somewhat. You have a postup five with Whiteside and a stretch four with Olynyk. That makes more sense than swiss army knife Johnson.”

Scout 2: “Johnson is the better option to start. He's more athletic, can do more than Kelly. You can play Kelly and Whiteside but it would be a little bit of a slow frontcourt. If you want to run, I would go with Johnson in the starting lineup.”

• Finally, I asked the scouts if he’s a dirty player, as Golden State’s Draymond Green and others have alleged.

Scout No. 1: “I don't think he's dirty. That's overrated. He doesn't look to take guys out. Sometimes guys who are slow and have a hard time getting in position look like they're playing dirty when they have to make up for lack of quickness.”

Scout No. 2: “I don't think he's a dirty player or a cheap shot guy. He's more clumsy than anything. He's a got toughness to him.”

A few other notes:

• Olynyk shot a career-high 51.2 percent from the field last season, while making 35.4 percent of his threes. That 35.4 ranked eighth among 16 centers who attempted at least 50 threes. He was particularly lethal on corner threes, making 18 of 32.

But his three-point shooting was much better at home (41.1) than on the road (29.5).

• His 9.0 scoring average last season was second-lowest of his four-year career, but he averaged only 22 minutes per game.

• Players guarded by Olynyk shot 46.8 percent, compared with 45.9 percent overall.

Among 28 centers who defended at least 700 shots, that would have ranked Olynyk 13th; 12 allowed a lower percentage; 15 yielded a higher percentage.

By contrast, Whiteside allowed players to shoot 46.3 percent against him but is by far the better shotblocker. Olynyk has averaged just .5 blocks per game in his NBA career.

• Olynyk has started only 36 of his 278 NBA games in four seasons, with six starts last season.

• He was most efficient offensively in the fourth quarter, shooting 53.4 percent from the field in that period.

• He’s averaged 4.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game in his career.

• According to ESPN, Olynyk and Dirk Nowitzki are the only 7-footers in NBA history with 200 three-pointers and 400 assists in their first four NBA seasons.

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