The demise of the big man in NBA basketball has been greatly exaggerated.
The fascination with the Dwight Howard saga proves as much. No. 1 pick Anthony Davis adds credence to the idea that the big man is alive and well. And if Greg Oden had remained healthy, he would be considered the best center in the league, not Howard.
It is true small ball is also alive and well; the Miami Heat won the 2012 championship, after all.
But the Heat have yet to prove that they can win multiple championships using a small lineup. The last team to win with small ball was the 2004 Detroit Pistons led by Chauncey Billups and stretch-4 Rasheed Wallace.
Andrew Bynum has taken his talents to the City of Brotherly Love, and we mustn't forget an ever-improving Roy Hibbert of the Indiana Pacers. These two, along with New York Knicks defensive stopper Tyson Chandler and Detroit's young tandem of Greg Monroe and rookie Andre Drummond, are all in the Eastern Conference.
Yes, Bynum comes with a legitimate championship pedigree, but he has never had to deal with so many seven-footers in his seven-year career. The Lakers generally don't give up on big men in their primes who have been parts of championship cores. Therefore, the title for being the big man in the Eastern Conference is up for grabs.
Boston has also bolstered its front line, with the addition of Fab Melo.
This after the Celtics experimented with the likes of Mikki Moore, Patrick O'Bryant, the incomparable Greg Stiemsma and the human bean pole JaJuan Johnson. Stiemsma got the most out of his talents and parlayed his performance into a modest deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Johnson's slight build and lack of focus on the court caused his demise, and the other two were simply bodies that were quickly jettisoned.
Melo comes with a proven track record of being a hard worker.
His freshman year at Syracuse was a lesson in preparation. His girth prevented him from being effective on the court. Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim gave him the task of shedding the weight.
Fab came back better than ever and was taken by Boston as a project in the first round.
Doc Rivers has no immediate plans of playing the big man. All the chatter seems to center on Melo spending his rookie campaign in Maine; his one-season turnaround at Syracuse may give Doc cause for concern.
Melo has the benefit of NBA Summer League play, a full training camp (during which he will be in Kevin Garnett's school of defense) and the preseason. Fab looked decent in his summer-league action as he showed flashes of being a good passer and his defensive instincts were evident.
In a recent interview, Jessica Camerato of Comcast New England asked Melo about the big men he idolized. He responded with Hakeem Olajuwon, Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan—all players who take pride in the fundamentals of the game and playing defense.
Boston's 22nd pick understands that his worth is in his defense, and his soccer background will help in absorbing Doc's defensive schemes. He can run the floor like Robert Parish, who was the last legitimate center Boston had. Melo has soft hands, and most important of all, he is part of the Kevin McHale school of big men.
McHale taught Garnett the intricacies of the low-post game. "The Black Hole" never saw a shot he didn't like while anchored in the low post.
He was unstoppable.
KG will be able to pass that knowledge on to a very willing pupil. The hands of one of the big men of both the original Big Three will be all over Melo's developing game.
Fabricio has a very high basketball IQ, and you can argue that he is like Olajuwon—in terms of his soccer background only. He has yet to prove that he is the steal of the 2012 draft. The fact that he admires Hakeem's game is an added bonus and shows he understands that it will take hard work to become a polished product.
He can do what Kendrick Perkins can't: effectively run the floor and move his feet.
Perk is at best a decent starter who makes the most of his ability, but Melo has the intangibles to make him a potential Celtic great.