Ever since the trade that sent Kendrick Perkins to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Celtics have been lacking a strong defensive center in the middle. They addressed this void with the 22nd pick in the draft by taking the 7'0", 260-pound Syracuse center Fab Melo.
Like Perk, Melo is a defensive-minded center who can block shots. Even better than Perk, Melo can also take charges effectively. This puts him in a small, elite group of big men who can both block shots and draw charges.
This kind of defensive impact will be incredibly helpful for a Celtics team that could use some intimidation in the paint. During the past season, the Celtics had arguably the best defense in the NBA—even without a real center.
Sure, Kevin Garnett is one of the greatest defensive big men ever, but he is a power forward and not a center. Things were even worse when he was not on the court. With Greg Stiemsma or Ryan Hollins on the court, the opposition would eat the Celtics up inside.
Now, Melo gives the Celtics more depth and size on the defensive end.
In order to make the kind of impact the Celtics will need, Melo needs to make a few improvements in his game. Under the tutelage of Kevin Garnett, he should enhance his basketball IQ and become smarter on defense.
Too many times last season Melo would get lost in the Syracuse zone or fail to make the proper rotation. While the Celtics don't run a zone with any regularity—unless they are playing the Heat—their defensive philosophy is still similar in terms of defensive rotations. Melo will need to grasp this concept to the fullest.
He will also need to grasp the concept of man-to-man defense if he is to make it in the NBA. That is not to say that he won't be good at man defense, he just never had to play much of it at Syracuse.
Again, with great teachers in Kevin Garnett and Doc Rivers, Melo should have no problems.
He may still have problems with defensive rebounding, and that is unacceptable. If he boxes out more and dedicates himself to the boards, then he shouldn't have any issues. He is a good rebounder, as evidenced by his impressive numbers on the offensive glass.
This is another aspect of his game that will greatly benefit a Celtics team that lacked it last season. The more second-chance opportunities the Celtics can get, the better they are offensively and Melo can provide just that.
Besides offensive rebounding, Melo will provide very little on the offensive end. He is raw offensively and, while he can and probably will make big improvements, it may take a little while.
But, whatever he provides on offense will be extra because he is here for his defense. With the help of KG and Doc, it should be great.
He is in the best possible position to get the coaching he needs to become an elite NBA defender. The best part about him is that you can't teach size or mobility. In both categories, Melo is ideal for the mold of a defensive NBA center.
If all goes well, he could start at center. This would allow Kevin Garnett to move back to power forward and Brandon Bass to return to his role as the sixth man.
By allowing these changes to be made and providing solid defensive minutes as the starting center, Melo could help put the Celtics back into contention yet again.
Check out the evaluation of Jared Sullinger as a draft pick here: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1242467-boston-celtics-evaluating-jared-sullinger-as-a-draft-pick.
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