What Did the Boston Celtics Ever See In Fab Melo?

By Brandon Spencer
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Fab Melo is the rawest first-round prospect the Boston Celtics have drafted in recent memory. After drafting the 7-foot Brazilian out of Syracuse with the 22nd pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, he didn’t really play. Sure, there were a few garbage minutes, but he never played any meaningful minutes. Even in D-League and this year’s Summer League play, Melo’s results were underwhelming.

So even after going into what people are calling “rebuild mode,” the Celtics decided that Melo wasn’t going to be a part of their long-term plans and parted ways with the 22-year-old center. Last month, the Celtics traded Melo (along with cash considerations) to the Memphis Grizzlies for Donte Greene.

The decision to cut ties with Fab was made despite his position being perhaps the one spot that the Celtics have been short at for the past few years, and still are today.

The bottom line is that they really didn’t want to waste any more time  developing him. They also didn’t want to waste the money — Melo was guaranteed $1.3 million, whereas Greene’s deal was un-guaranteed at around $1 million, helping the Celtics get closer to below the luxury tax threshold.

Personally, I like Fab Melo. He’s always smiling and seems like a good guy. He bought into what it means to be a Celtic and worked really hard during his time in Boston, but it just wasn’t going to work. And two weeks after the trade, the Grizzlies also decided it wasn’t going to work with Melo and waived him.

After that, nobody else wanted him either, as the center cleared waivers and now sits in the position of being a free agent. Regardless of whether Donte Greene ends up sticking around with the Celtics or finding himself being a free agent as well, this deal confirms that Celtics GM Danny Ainge‘s 2012 decision to use a first-round pick on Melo is a failure.

When the Celtics drafted Melo at no. 22 in the draft, there were still some interesting names on the board: guy like John Jenkins, Tony Wroten, Perry Jones III, Marquis Teague, Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green to name a few. But instead, they went with the big guy.

It is true that Melo has great size and shot-blocking ability, but he also entered the league having had only four years of organized basketball experience in his entire life. It goes without saying that Fab had a very, very long way to go to develop into a viable NBA-level contributor.

And it’s not like the Celtics didn’t know that going into the whole situation.

Further, the Celtics should have seen the writing on the wall. Melo, who averaged less than five points and four rebounds in two years of play at Syracuse, is further proof that if a big man doesn’t put up good numbers in college, he probably won’t do it at the next level.

There are tons of examples of past players similar to Melo that never panned out: Daniel Orton, Bismack Biyombo, Disagana Diop, Saer Sene, Johan Petro. All of these guys were raw, physical specimens for the center position, but the most common thread behind these guys is that there were no statistics (or any type of proof) that demonstrated they could really be productive on the court.

The other common thread here is that none of them have been productive in the NBA. Heed the warning, Oklahoma City, because Steven Adams might be the next one.

Perhaps when it comes to big men, hype and potential aren’t as important as actual production. When will NBA teams finally realize that “project” centers like Fab Melo don’t work out? Hopefully, Danny Ainge just learned that lesson.

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