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Ric Bucher on M&M: Tyler Hansbrough is ‘best-case scenario for Jared Sullinger’

07.02.12 at 1:10 pm ET

ESPN’s Ric Bucher joined Mut & Merloni Monday morning to discuss Kevin Garnett‘€™s contract, what the future holds for Ray Allen, what the Celtics’€™ expectations should be for Jared Sullinger, and more. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

While he didn’€™t think it was a surprise that Garnett would return to Boston, Bucher said Garnett’€™s reported three-year, $34 million contract offer was far more than expected.

The deal was ‘€œpretty surprising considering the length and the size of it,’€ Bucher said. ‘€œWe all know that KG has been battling through a number of things the last few years, and while I thought that [the Celtics] might make him a healthy offer, I never expected that it would be that long.’€

Bucher said he felt that Garnett’€™s effectiveness away from the basket, with his height and shooting ability, was a major factor in the Celtics’€™ decision to offer the 36-year-old a three-year deal.

‘€œKG has demonstrated with his length and with that silky jumper that he can still be effective,’€ Bucher said. ‘€œAnd with that size and ability to space the floor, it doesn’€™t really come down to athleticism. He can probably make that shot over guys when he is 40 years old, and now we may get the chance to see him prove it.’€

As for his prediction regarding the Ray Allen sweepstakes, Bucher said he’€™s come full circle since Garnett agreed to come back, at first believing Allen would definitely return, then wondering whether the Suns would lure him away with a huge contract. However, Bucher said he ultimately he made up his mind when he heard Celtics coach Doc Rivers‘€™ comments.

‘€œDoc coming out and saying, ‘€˜Hey, I feel like Ray’€™s going to be here,’€™ and knowing Doc usually doesn’€™t talk empty-handed in those sorts of tones, and knowing just the general relationship between KG, Ray, Doc and Paul [Pierce], I’€™m back around to finding it hard to believe that with KG in the fold for that period of time that they’€™re going to let Ray Allen walk.’€

If Allen does not return, Bucher said Mavericks guard Jason Terry is the free agent replacement that makes the most sense for the Celtics, “because he’€™s played in disciplined systems.”

The 34-year-old Terry ‘€œhas played with other veteran stars and found a way to be effective playing around them. It’€™s a really unique situation. I’€™m just not sure O.J. Mayo fits in that ‘€¦ and Jamal Crawford has never been a disciplined player,’€ Bucher said. In his 13th NBA season, Terry averaged 15.1 points per game on 43 percent shooting from the field.

On the Celtics’€™ 21st draft pick, Bucher said the consensus around the league was that Sullinger is a very smart and skilled player but the evolution of the NBA game is working against the former Ohio State star.

‘€œNobody questions that he knows how to play the game of basketball, that he has a skill set and that he is an intelligent player and on that level I can see where he fits the Boston Celtics dynamic,” Bucher said. “The big question is, and we’€™ve seen it, the NBA game has become a supremely athletic game. You look at the two teams that got to the finals, and you look at the two teams that got knocked out along the way, the Spurs and Celtics. The Spurs and the Celtics are kings of execution, of doing more mentally than physically. And we saw how that turned out, we saw what trumped what. That is the question everyone has for Jared Sullinger, aside from the back issue. Is he athletic enough to make an impact at his position? ‘€¦ I’€™ll put it this way, if Sullinger turns out to be Tyler Hansbrough, are you good with that? Because that’€™s probably what the upside, the best-case scenario is for Jared Sullinger.’€

Hansbrough has averaged just under 10 points and five rebounds in 21 minutes per game during his three seasons in the league, all with the Pacers.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Jared Sullinger, Kevin Garnett, Mut & Merloni
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