There are three new members to the Boston Celtics and each has a set of early expectations.
With plenty of uncertainty regarding the future of Kevin Garnett, Boston decided to select two big men—Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo—in the first round. Since the draft, Garnett has signed a three-year deal and will be a mentor for the two newest post players.
Boston has yet to finalize its roster for next season and training camp will be a big step forward in that decision. Each of these rookies will have to earn their stay on the roster and prove to Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers that they’re worthy.
These are the early expectations that each Boston newcomer will have to live up to.
Drafted: No. 21 Overall
Position: Power Forward
Height/Weight: 6’9’’, 268 lbs
The biggest issue regarding Jared Sullinger in the draft was that he was red-flagged by doctors with a bad back. Sullinger’s draft stock dropped heavily which allowed Boston to take a chance on him at No. 21.
He was a solid power forward for Ohio State in his two seasons with the Buckeyes. He averaged 17.5 points and 9.2 rebounds per game as a sophomore and stayed relatively healthy throughout the season.
The biggest expectation for Sullinger will be to stay healthy. If he can do that—and prove that the back issues won’t be a factor in his performance—he will easily become one of the biggest steals in the draft.
Take Notes from KG
Since Kevin Garnett decided to return to the Celtics for the next three seasons, it’s the perfect opportunity for Sullinger to learn from the future Hall of Famer.
Garnett has been one of the game’s best power forwards for the last 10-plus seasons, and Sullinger could really benefit from being one of his teammates.
Sullinger should take note of everything that Garnett does on a daily basis. Watch how he works out, practices and plays the game. By doing these things, Sullinger can only improve his game.
Drafted: No. 22 Overall
Height/Weight: 7’0’’, 255 lbs
Become a Role Player
The Celtics should have several low-post options going into next season and it is too early to tell who will be the starting five. Kevin Garnett played center for a lot of the season and whether he continues to play there might depend on the future of Brandon Bass in Boston.
I doubt that Fab Melo starts the season in the starting lineup, but it will be very important for him to become a solid player off of the bench. He will be one of Boston’s biggest options down low and has to contribute early in the season.
If Melo can perform at a high level quickly, he could see his playing time increase significantly in the early months of the season.
Develop Offensive Skills
Melo was a very good college defender but was a non-existent offensive option. He has to develop his raw offensive skills in order to be a center in the NBA.
As a sophomore, Melo shot 56.6 percent from the field—which could be higher for a guy who mainly shoots from under the basket—and 63.3 percent from the charity stripe. The first thing Melo needs to do is to go to the practice court and just shoot. He has to take hundreds of shots from various parts of the floor and improve his shooting.
At the least, Melo needs to get his free-throw shooting under control. Doc Rivers needs to be able to trust him late in games—if he should play in those situations. Doc certainly won’t play big men who are shaky at the line.
Drafted: No. 51 Overall
Position: Small Forward
Height/Weight: 6’7’’, 215 lbs
Unless Kris Joseph comes into training camp shooting lights out, he’s going to have to earn his spot on this Celtics team. It’s unlikely that he’ll see significant time early in the season, so his job will be to surprise us.
Joseph should make the most of his opportunities and do his best to impress Doc Rivers. When inserted into the game, he needs to make smart passes, set good screens and try to look as sound as possible.
Joseph was Syracuse’s leading scorer last season and is a decent shooter from the field. If he can hit a couple of three-pointers early, that could boost his confidence and improve his overall game.
Learn from “The Truth”
While Sullinger and Melo can learn a few things from Garnett, Joseph can pick up some pointers from Paul Pierce.
Pierce has been a focal point of the Boston offense and defense for the duration of his career and as a rookie in the league, Joseph needs to pay attention. He isn’t going to have many opportunities like this, and if Ray Allen decides to come back to the Celtics, he really will have it made.
There isn’t a lot of depth at small forward for the future once Pierce retires, and Joseph could be that guy if he’s lucky. For the time being, he should do his best to learn as much as possible from his veteran teammates.