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Last summer Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics entered the draft with one goal in mind: draft a big man. Despite coming up just a game short of the NBA Finals, the Celtics were by no means the perfect team. All season long they muddled through with Kevin Garnett playing out of position at center while an undersized Brandon Bass manned the four spot. The bench wasn't much better, featuring the underwhelming talents of Chris Wilcox and Greg Steimsma, the last-ditch effort signings of Sean Williams and Ryan Hollins, and the oft-injured Jermaine O'Neal. The Celtics' deficient unit of big men proved to be a glaring hole in the team's line-up and although the Miami Heat lacked size, their youth and athleticism made up for it. 

With two first round picks, Ainge was in a favorable position to choose at least one guy who could provide an inside presence. But in a fairly shallow draft class his options were limited. Ainge decided to take Jared Sullinger, an undersized power forward who's future was uncertain due to nagging back issues. Having back to back picks, Danny followed the Sullinger choice up by drafting a true 7-footer in Fab Melo, a raw center out of Syracuse. 

Since Sullinger was much too small to play the five, Melo was immediately pinned as the franchise's future center, the key word being future

Fab appeared in just six games for Boston over the course of the 2012-13 season, averaging 6 minutes, 1.2 points, 0.5 rebounds, and 0.3 blocks per game. The thing is, though, nobody expected Melo to come to Boston and immediately log big minutes. The organization had made it abundantly clear that Fab would be a project. As a result, the big Brazilian spent most of his time in Portland, Maine playing for the Red Claws, only occasionally going to Waltham to practice with the big boys. 

The D-League proved to be extremely beneficial for Melo, however, as he averaged 8.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.1 blocks per night. His impressive strides were solidified by a couple of monster performances including a triple-double comprised of 15 points, 16 rebounds, and 14 blocks. It was outings like these that Fab showed glimpses of what he could bring to an NBA team, granted he was doing it against inferior competition but still, it made both Celtics fans and brass hopeful for the future. 

Fast forward to Sunday morning. The Celtics were in Florida for the 2013 Orlando Summer League and their entry was headlined by the likes of Kelly Olynyk, Colton Iverson, and none other than Fab Melo. Besides Olynyk, Melo was arguably the one player that everyone was the most anxious to see. He had a full year of professional basketball under his belt and people were ready to see the new and improved Fab Melo.

Except he wasn't new. And he wasn't improved. 
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In fact from the opening tip of game one to the final buzzer of game four, I didn't once see a noticeable improvement in his game from one year to the next. It actually seemed as though he was getting worse as each game passed, if that's even possible. 

Based on what Melo displayed, it really makes me wonder what he has (or hasn't) been doing all summer long and, unfortunately for Fab, the NBA's "shirsey" beta isn't doing him any favors. Instead of muscular frame, Melo sported a torso draped in flab which made it clear to everyone and their mother that he was not in basketball shape. But his huffing and puffing could have given it away as well, I can't be entirely sure. 

If he hasn't heard the saying yet here it is: "You get back what you put in." Melo lazed around all summer and, in turn, he posted an unattractive stat line of 5.0 points and 3.0 rebounds in about 18.5 minutes per game. 

All week long he took the floor and embarrassed himself, showing everyone that he still hasn't shaken his goofy and seemingly uncoordinated style of play. Not to mention his incredibly soft play around the basket. 

I realize that all this criticism may seem harsh but this is the NBA for crying out loud. I just don't understand how a guy who's 7-feet and 255 pounds can only manage to grab 3 rebounds per game. I mean, he was averaging a little over 4 a game until he failed to corral a single missed shot today against the Houston Rockets. That's right, not a single rebound for Melo. I'm sorry but that's just baffling to me. 

So after stringing together four lackluster performances I think it's safe to say that Fab Melo has a lot of work to do. It might not be the end of the world seeing as he still has training camp to prove he's ready to contribute at the NBA level but his chances are definitely wearing thin. 

Melo is set to make $1,311,240 over the course of the 2013-14 season, most of which will probably be earned at the D-League level. But since his contract is guaranteed this year the Celtics have no other choice but to bite the bullet and continue their attempts to develop his game. At this point there is no chance that Ainge would be able to make him another team's problem via trade because anybody in their right mind would hang up the phone as soon as his Danny uttered his name. To be perfectly honest, though, I don't think we should give up on him just yet. He may be extremely frustrating to watch but who knows? Maybe he will become a defensive stopper that specializes in rebounding the basketball and blocking shots. To me, that would garner a spot on the Celtics' roster but until then Melo has to decide whether or not he truly wants to play professional basketball. Boston has a team option on his contract for the next two years after 2013-14. If he fails to make even the slightest steps forward there's no doubt in my mind that Ainge chooses not to extend him a qualifying offer. If that happens, then Melo better make sure his passport is valid because he'll end up overseas somewhere, leaving us behind to wonder what could have been.

 


Comments

tenzenz
07/11/2013 8:39pm

Forgeddaboudhem. He had the ability and the talent to be drafted in the NBA, the Team made him a millionaire, he'll probably be set for life in his Native Country. He had the opportunity to develop into a decent NBA player with his size and raw talent, and instead has chosen to let himself get out of shape, and be lazy. It's too bad the Celtics still have to pay him more than million dollars this coming year. He's obviously not worth 1 percent of that

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