The Celtics had two first round draft picks this past draft. The first selection led to cheers and applause from Boston fans as Commissioner David Stern called Jared Sullinger’s name. When it was time for the Celtics to make their second selection of the night, the fan reaction was quite different.
Fab Melo’s name was announced and there was a bit of disappointment and confusion among Celtics’ fans. Some local Big East basketball fans may have been happy with the Syracuse product, but many wondered why take such a project? These fans’ sentiments were only confirmed, as Melo played awful in summer league. So did the Celtics make a mistake?
There were plenty of other names on the board that could have looked good in Celtic green. Baylor’s Perry Jones, once projected a top five pick had slipped right into the Celtics’ lap. John Jenkins, the deadeye shooter from Vanderbilt was still on the board too.
Perhaps the Celtics wanted to take a true big man with this pick though. Well Draymond Green and Festus Ezeli were also both available when the Celtics picked. The question begs to be asked, should the Celtics have gone in a different direction with their 22nd pick?
Draymond Green was one of the most productive players in the draft, averaging 16.2 points per game and 10.6 rebounds per game this past season. He played four years at Michigan State, and is the all-time leading rebounder in the school’s history. The Boston Celtics have desperately struggled with cleaning up the glass, and adding both Sullinger and Green would have helped resolve that weakness.
Green is also ready to contribute immediately. His experience in the college game makes him ready to play now. The same cannot be said for Melo, who will likely spend more time this year on the Maine Red Claws, the Celtics’ D-League affiliate, than on the Celtics. For a team in a win now mode, wouldn’t a player who could help now be more important than someone who needs to be developed?
Ezeli is along the same mold as Melo. Both centers only started to play organized basketball in recent years. Ezeli is further along than Melo however; due to the fact he played four years in college, and redshirted his first year on campus. Melo declared for the draft as a sophomore and was more productive in his first two years of college basketball than Ezeli.
Ezeli averaged 3.8 ppg and 3.2 rpg after his redshirt sophomore year. Melo essentially doubled that production this past year with 7.8 ppg and 5.8 rpg.
Blocking shots are both the most effective parts of their games. During his junior year, Ezeli blocked 2.6 shots per game, his career best at Vanderbilt. Melo in just his second year at Syracuse sent back 2.9 shots a game.
For comparisons sake, Green averaged 9.9 ppg and 7.7 rpg in his sophomore year.
So finally should the Celtics have drafted either of these players instead of Melo? Well if Danny Ainge wanted a guy to help contribute now then he certainly made a mistake. Green is leaps and bounds ahead of Melo. If Ainge just wanted to find a guy that they can develop for the future then Melo was the clear choice against Ezeli.
Ainge has been one of the more consistent drafters in the league, but he is not without his mistakes either. Fans will have to hope Melo is more Leon Powe than J.R. Giddens.