With the most exciting moments of the offseason behind us, Celtics Town is counting down the Celtics’ roster from 16 to one. We’ll offer speculation on the role each player has to play, and where they’ll be in the rotation as we look towards the upcoming season. If you missed the last column in this series you can check it out here.
It’s inevitable that at some point every year I’ll have a tantrum about Doc Rivers not playing rookies, and consequently say something ridiculous like “We don’t have any bigs, playing JaJuan is our only chance!” or “Luke Harangody is just what this team needs!” I do not expect to be having any such moment regarding Fab Melo this year. I’ve seen him play and he’s not ready. And I know Ryan Hollins made the rotation last year, and I know this means I have Jason Collins ranked higher than Fab, and I know that dead last in the rotation is not where any of us like to imagine a first round pick. Fab is just not ready right now, but he will be one day.
Fab Melo is really good at one thing, blocking shots (2.9 per game last year at Syracuse). He doesn’t really rebound (5.8 RPG) and his offensive game, in addition to being virtually non-existent (7.8 PPG), can also be pretty frightening to watch at times. While Greg Stiemsma made his way into the rotation for his shot blocking talent, Melo’s is (as of now) irrelevant because he does not yet know how to defend on an NBA level. That sounded really bad, let me explain. Fab spent his college career playing in Boehiem’s 2-3 zone, and when he was forced out of that system in summer league his blocks dropped to just 1.1 per game. He’s only been playing basketball for a few years, so while other players have at least some experience playing man-to-man, Fab doesn’t really have that foundation to fall back on. There were a number of times this summer where Fab was just a tenth of a second late on a block attempt, because he’s not sure where he’s supposed to be. As he adjusts to playing in Doc’s system defense this will get remedied, but if you put him in an NBA game today the opposing team would pick-and-roll him to death.
It’s best to think of Melo as a project. During summer league he was at his best running the defense, and now he has a great mentor in Kevin Garnett who shares his vocal style (I mean talking on defense, not unloading expletives on people). It will take some time before Fab’s pick-and-roll and isolation defense is good enough for the NBA, and while I don’t think it’ll be this season, I can’t say for sure. Fab has been billed by both himself and his coach as a hard worker (backed up by his dramatic weight loss between his freshman and sophomore years of college) and extremely coachable. With a little conditioning and a lot of KG it’s completely possible that in time Fab can be the seven-foot-Ibaka-help-defender I believe (ok, convinced myself) he can be. For now, Melo is a bit of an enigma and that’s okay. It’ll take time, but KG has forged impressive defenders out of a lot less.
You can follow Jordan on Twitter, @OffensiveG.