With the 21st and 22nd picks in the 2012 NBA draft last night, the Celtics filled two gaping holes in their roster with the addition of Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo from Syracuse University. As is the case with many of the picks from this years draft, both have more than their fair share of question marks as they make the transition into the NBA, but with that in mind it makes the return of Kevin Garnett all the more important for the upcoming season.
Fab Melo is without a doubt the biggest question mark of this draft. I had openly expressed that he was the best fit for the Celtics needs when trying to predict where the Celtics would go with their picks, standing at 7’0” Melo is a long and lean defensive minded Center. Melo can block shots with the best of them and plays terrific in the zone defense as he did in Syracuse, question marks remain on his capability in man to man and as a rebounder. Other question marks have risen as to his level of maturity after being suspended off the team just prior to the start of March Madness.
Melo would surely benefit from the presence of Garnett, likely more so than any other rookie since Garnett’s arrival. It is entirely likely that Melo will go from being a reliable starter in college to a garbage time player during his rookie season, as we have seen with most of the Celtics rookies under Doc Rivers. This will be an extremely challenging transition for Melo, and without the right leadership in place to guide him, a potentially toxic transition. Garnett will obviously tutor Melo and hopefully help improve his ability on the glass and as a man defender, he will likely never become a reliable scorer, but if he can develop into a lockdown paint defender this pick was well worth it.
Jared Sullinger on the other hand has a few less red flags, though there are enough for there to be at least mild concern for the 6’8” Power Forward. Sullinger enjoyed a successful tenure at Ohio State, the preseason mock drafts even had him going as a top five pick thanks to his monster season in 2010-11. Sullinger is a very good rebounder and is extremely polished in-the-paint as a scorer. He needs to improve as a defender but with a height disadvantage combined with his lack of vertical leap, that will be hard. Taking a bit of a step back this year, Sullinger had some health issues come up (Back) and a bit of a weight issue. While the two may be tied hand in hand, this is again where Garnett may come into play.
Kevin Garnett is the ideal candidate to lead young bigs, show them the way things are done in the NBA, and give them a model to follow for the rest of their careers. Every star in the league will admit that they had a veteran that took them under their wing and gave them a good path to follow for their career (except Kobe thanks to his ego). Sometimes that is all that it takes.
This is why the NBA puts such a value on having veteran guys on the roster. A guy that may not contribute much on the court is contributing so much more off the court (see Juwan Howard+ PJ Brown). While Garnett will still be giving the Celtics a tremendous amount on the court compared to the two names I just dropped, he will be giving them so much more off the court. It was just a few weeks ago that Red’s Army was reporting that JuJuan Johnson spoke on the value of Garnett and learning from Garnett. Johnson came into the league with far less baggage than the two most recent additions yet he still immersed in the Church of Garnett. With Melo and Sullinger, they are clearly guys that need the guidance, need a model to follow which Garnett could provide, and it could be the difference between turning these two young bigs into draft day busts or future superstars of the league.