The Celtics made a big splash in the 2012 NBA draft, landing what could become two key pieces to the future of their organization; Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo. Sullinger played extremely well in the Summer League and already figures to be a key contributing member to the Celtics rotation. Melo on the other hand has not enjoyed as much success since his draft selection. So this begs the legitimate question, how much can the Celtics expect from Fab Melo both now and in the future?
Fab Melo has been the topic of much debate across NCAA and NBA fans for the past year thanks to his troubled season at Syracuse University. Melo was suspended as the March Madness tournament came around for academic issues, and his attitude problem has been widely documented over the past year. Many questioned his selection to the Celtics, but their need for a true 7 footer was apparent in the Eastern Conference Finals where they were badly out-rebounded by the Miami Heat.
Melo was selected in the first round, primarily for his defensive ability in the low post. Melo is a terrific shot blocker and a strong zone defender. Question marks are up on his Man D, and even more question marks are up on his offensive ability. With so many question marks, many were left wondering whether he was worthy of a first round selection. The reality is, Melo will be a pick that we won’t be able to fully appreciate for a few seasons. He has a bit of developing to do and that is why we won’t see much of him this season.
With so much depth in the Celtics front court now, Melo will likely spend a bit of time in the NBADL to hopefully develop his game. But if he puts in the time and hard work that is required of him, Melo will likely develop into one of the games premier post defenders. Many have compared his potential to that of Tyson Chandler, a player with minimal offensive ability but a superior lockdown defender in the paint. That is a lofty goal for Melo, as is the other comparison of Marcus Camby, though neither are out of reach.
Shot blocking can only get a player so far in the NBA before some additional contribution is expected from that player, just ask Mikki Moore, Patrick O’Bryant, or Chris Anderson. For Melo, the low-end of the totem pole for him would be Chris Anderson a player who is brought in as a defensive stopper but never relied upon as a key rotation member. I would agree with the scouts that the high water mark for Melo’s potential would be more towards Tyson Chandler. Chandler shares a similar knack for shot blocking and a knack for zone defense. Chandler came into the league with many of the same question marks but adapted his game to eventually become the NBA’s defensive player of the year in 2012.
Celtics fans can only hope that Melo has gone through training camp with his listening ears turned on, and that Kevin Garnett has taken the young bigs under his wing and set them on a path to success. Melo will need every bit of leadership to get him through what will certainly be a tough transitional year for him, going from the big man on campus to becoming a student first, something he clearly had trouble with at Syracuse.