The rumors had been there all along – that Fab Melo would likely be available when the Celtics made their selections at numbers 21 and 22, and that Danny Ainge would likely take a flier on the defensive-minded (read: offensively challenged) big man from Syracuse. And sure enough, just moments after selecting Jared Sullinger at 21, Ainge rolled the dice and selected Melo with the 22nd pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.
So, what do we make of this pick? Clearly, this was a pick based on need. The Celtics simply didn’t have any size, and Melo definitely provides that. The Celtics were one of the poorest rebounding teams in the league last season, and Melo should help the C’s improve in this category. (Although in fairness, rebounding isn’t exactly one of Melo’s strengths at the present time – more on that later.) Ainge clearly has his sights set on Kevin Garnett returning and on winning now, while at the same time stocking the team with young players who can lead the next generation of Celtic contenders.
Last season, Ainge drafted JaJuan Johnson and E’Twuan Moore, both from Purdue. While both players made the roster, Johnson was too thin to really help Boston as a rookie. And Moore, while he had his shining moments, was too inconsistent to be counted on.
Jared Sullinger appears NBA ready and should get a shot at a rotation spot in his first season. And Melo, while a work in progress, should be able to run the court, bang, and help bolster the Celtics’ big man rotation.
Melo has plenty to work on – he doesn’t have an offensive game to speak of, and there are questions as to whether he can step out and defend on the perimeter. His footwork is sloppy, he’s slow, and he needs to become stronger to compete at the pro level. And about that rebounding – Melo, at 7’0″, 255 pounds, should be an effective rebounder. The truth is, most of his rebounds at Syracuse came below the basket. Part of that has to do with slow foot speed and poor footwork. Can Doc Rivers and the coaching staff improve Melo in that area? I hope so, otherwise this selection may not pan out.