The offseason is here for the Boston Celtics, and in just a couple of months, they will begin the process of putting next year’s team together. We will take a look at the current Celtics and try to figure out what to do with each of them. We continue today with Fab Melo.
We really don’t know much about Fab Melo other than he’s a project. In the Syracuse zone defense, Melo was a fearsome defender. In the NBA, where even the zone is a lot less zone than the college version, Melo repeatedly got lost in his first action over the summer and in the preseason.
And we’re not even mentioning his offense.
So before the season truly began, Melo was sent down to the D-League. He finished second in the D-League in blocks (3.16 bpg), which is nice to see. He had a 10 game stretch where he put up double-digit scoring in nine games. And in that stretch he recorded an insane triple double (15 points, 16 rebounds, 14 blocks) and nearly a second one (32 points, 9 rebounds, 9 blocks).
But despite those monster games, he finished the D-League season averaging 9.8 points and 6 rebounds. He’s shown flashes, which his nice. But it’s not like he dominated in Maine, either.
So what do the Celtics do with their nearly 23 year-old project? Here are the options.
He’s 7 feet tall, and height is always in demand. But everyone in the world knows he’s a project. The question with Melo is, how far along do you think he is? If the Celtics, after taking a close look at him, decide he’s a little further off than they’d like, they might try to include him in a bigger trade if one comes around.
Melo’s salary numbers are only a few dollars lower than Sullinger’s, but the years and options are the same: He’s due $1,311,240 this coming season, the following two years are team options at $1,367,640 and $2,249,767, and the 2016/17 season brings restricted free agency, which carries a $3,257,664 qualifying offer.
So it’s not a LOT of money in the grand scheme of things. The big questions in this scenario are (a) do the Celtics feel there is untapped potential still in Melo and (b) does another team covet him enough that his acquisition could help complete a trade?
They won’t do that this year. If he doesn’t progress this year, they hold team options in the following two years where they can dump him.
He’s raw. He’s coal. And Danny Ainge is hoping to squeeze a diamond out of him. He has some good help instincts on D, but his man-to-man and pick-and-roll defense is very much a work in progress. His offense is a bit further behind, but they’ve got a full summer, and another season to put him through the paces either in Boston or back in Maine. If the Celtics feel there is untapped potential in there, they will work to mine it out of him.
So to recap…
- They could try to throw him into a larger trade, hoping that his potential is something that would entice teams
- They could waive him.
- They could keep him and continue the project
The bottom line to me is there’s no rush to get Melo into the lineup.
I know… I know… I can already hear you screaming “but we need size!!!”
Yeah, so do about 20 other teams. But that doesn’t mean the Celtics should throw an unprepared Fab Melo into the fire. He’s not the difference between the Celtics winning a title or missing the playoffs. It’s not like having him in the lineup will magically transform the Celtics into anything other than what they’d be without him. So while they need his size, his ability doesn’t allow him to play just yet.
He’ll play in the summer league. He’ll work with the team in Boston. He’ll get preseason reps. Then the Celtics can take a good, hard look at what Fab has learned, how he is applying it, and how much work really needs to be done. Then, from there, they can decide whether he should continue his learning in Boston or in Maine.
After another season of development, the Celtics can then make the hard decision (or maybe it will be easy by then) about his future. Sure, if he’s the difference in an offseason or mid-season trade that brings in a good player, then he should be included. But I think the Celtics should hold on to him for one more year to see how he puts together the lessons he’s learned, and how he progresses. If they’re not happy with him after this season is over, they can simply refuse the team option next summer or the year after and be done with him. If he continues to progress, he might find his way into the rotation at some point this season, or maybe next season.
The Celtics have time and very little financial commitment to Melo. There’s no need to rush or be impatient. One more year of development benefits everyone.
Also check out: