Fab Melo averaged just 1.8 points 4.8 rebounds 1.0 blocks 28.6% from the field 50% from the line in the Orlando Summer League, prompting many Celtics fans to wonder if he may be the next bust of Hasheem Thabeet magnitude.
Make no mistake, Thabeet was a much more touted prospect, drafted 2nd overall in the 2009 NBA Draft, but has already played for three teams thus far since then and is about to enter his first season with his fourth squad in Oklahoma City. His numbers have been horrid so far: 2.2 points per game and 1.7 rebounds per game, with nearly one block per contest. This all comes after averaging 13.8 points per game and 10.8 rebounds per game at UCONN with 152 blocks in his senior season, including a triple double against Providence in which he totaled 15 points, 11 rebounds, and ten blocks (!). The sky was the ceiling for Thabeet, who was compared to NBA great Dikembe Mutombo.
The ceiling for Melo has been more compared to Samuel Dalembert, but if Melo reached that level it would still best what Thabeet has done so far — by a long shot. Melo was said to have played decent defense in summer league, showing the shot blocking ability that made him a late first round pick. He played hard, diving for the ball, and even showed a few flashes on offense, despite the uninspiring stats (hard to get too excited about 22% FG). Besides, it was his defense that got him drafted, and learning from Kevin Garnett will only make that ability even better.
Again, the expectations is what makes things different here. Some are hoping for nothing more than a modest state line of five points, five rebounds, and a block and a half per game. Others set the bar way too high, considering he was taken 22nd overall and missed the NCAA tournament, which could have either helped or hurt his draft stock.
So that Sam Dalembert upside? Dalembert’s career stats come out to 8 points per game, 8.2 rebounds per game, and 1.9 blocks per game in almost 26 minutes per night. HIs best career season came in 2007-08 as a member of the division rival Philadelphia 76ers, when he averaged 10.5 points per game, 10.4 rebounds per game, and 2.3 blocks per game. If Melo can play to that level, he is worth every bit of his draft spot, and Dalembert himself was taken at a similar position at 26th overall in the 2001 Draft.
So, we all know the obvious: It could go one of two ways for Melo — bust or smashing success. The middle ground is possible as well, but to me it seems he’ll either “get it” and be a great success, or he’ll fall into obscurity and be out of the league in a few seasons if he doesn’t adapt to NBA rotations and not playing in a zone defense anymore as he did at Syracuse most of the time.
Melo’s athletic abilities give him the potential, but it will be refining the mental aspects that can make him a success.