Last week, we made the case for how Dion Waiters could be successful in the NBA. This week, we take a look at Syracuse's other first round draft pick – Fab Melo. By no means are we saying Fab's on his way to an All-Star selection, but simply looking at why he could end up surprising Celtics fans (who've been less-than-ecstatic by the big Brazilian's arrival).
The Case for Melo
It's a cliché, but there's a reason for that – it's true. You.Can't.Teach.Size.
There were better athletes in the draft, better scorers and rebounders, and players with more basketball savvy than Melo. But how many 7-footers were available? For that reason alone, Fab (not unlike most big men in the NBA) was probably overvalued. But again, there's a reason for that – You.Can't.Teach.Size. Melo's got that, and now it's up to the Celtics cadre to teach him everything else.
And this is where Fab hit the jackpot – he'll get to learn from two of the game's best in head coach Doc Rivers and future Hall-of-Famer Kevin Garnett. Think Jim Boeheim had to ride Fab to get him into shape and help him improve? Wait until these two get him into camp.
Rivers is considered one the preeminent defensive minds in the game. He's a championship-winning coach who's also been NBA Coach of the Year, and spent more than a decade playing in the league (where he was once an all-star). And one need only look at Doc's recent track record to see what he can do with raw, young centers – Kendrick Perkins came to Boston a fresh-faced high schooler, and left in 2011 as one of the league's best rim-protectors (who just signed a hefty extension with the Western Conference Champion Thunder).
But Fab's biggest source of wisdom is probably one of his fellow bigs – Garnett. Even at 36-years-young, KG is widely viewed as one of the elite post defenders in the NBA. He was a large part of Perkins' development, just as he'll be a large part of Fab's. Garnett doesn't mince words and isn't afraid to get in anyone's face. He'll lay out in plain English (or Portuguese, or whatever mode of communication Melo prefers) exactly what Fab needs to do to survive in the league. KG's already done it with youngsters like Perkins and Rajon Rondo, and with a new 3-year deal to stay in Boston, Fab will be the latest student to study at Big Ticket University (fortunately for Melo, this school doesn't have classes or tests).
Finally, it's important for fans to remember that Melo is still relatively ignorant to the game of hoops. He didn't even pick up a basketball until late in high school, spent one year playing high school ball in Florida, and then came to Syracuse. He hardly saw minutes his freshman year and was mostly out of shape, before making a monumental leap as a sophomore.
That means, the kid you're seeing now is nowhere close to a finished product. For all intents and purposes, Melo has one real year of elite basketball under his belt. If he can continue to show the improvements seen during his brief collegiate career, there's no reason the size-deprived Celtics can't one day win with Melo under the rim.