By Drew Silverman
As a Syracuse graduate and a college basketball junkie, I watched Fab Melo play for the Orange probably close to 50 times and Kris Joseph probably close to 100 times. I am very comfortable breaking down both players' strengths and weaknesses and, if nothing else, I'll offer more of a real picture than Jay Bilas, who loved all 60 picks, and Jeff Van Gundy, who knew nothing about all 60 picks.
So, here is a quick breakdown of what to expect from the Celtics' newest Syracuse products:
The background: Melo came to Syracuse in 2010 with an enormous amount of hype as a freshman. He was the Big East's preseason rookie of the year, and it seemed as if he would step in right away and contribute. To say the least, that didn't happen. Melo started as a freshman, but he constantly was removed from games by Jim Boeheim after several minutes for a variety of bone-headed mistakes which included (but were not limited to) bad fouls, missed defensive assignments, and poor turnovers. Most of his freshman season went along this way, as he played just 9.9 minutes per game and averaged 2.3 points and 1.9 rebounds.
To Melo's credit, though, he lost a ton of weight last off-season and returned for his sophomore year in much better shape - and with much better results. Melo averaged 7.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.9 blocks as a sophomore en route to earning the Big East's defensive player of the year honor. There were times in which he was the best player on the court for Syracuse - a notion that would have been laughable just a few months earlier. He played 25.4 minutes per game as a sophomore, cut down on his fouls and his mistakes, and was a reliable player on both ends of the court.
The scouting report: Melo is still a work in progress offensively. That said, he's not a stiff (at least, not anymore). He has developed a couple of low-post moves, and he has a surprisingly nice touch for a 7-footer. That said, he really needs to be wide open if he's going to knock down a 10-to-15 foot jumper. He also became a much better free-throw shooter in the second half of his sophomore season - an improvement for which Melo deserves a lot of credit.
From a passing standpoint, Melo has some skills. He's not Rajon Rondo or Kevin Garnett, but he has the potential to be a well above-average passer for an NBA center. Speaking of Rondo, the Celtics' point guard better ease up on those passes to Melo, because he definitely does not have the best hands. Melo carves out nice space for himself on the boards, but he could use some improvement in this area. Defensively, he has pretty good timing on blocking shots, but he can still get himself into foul trouble by going for pump fakes way too often. And it's important to note that Melo is terrific at taking charges, a trait that you rarely see in a 7-footer.
Even though he was suspended for academic reasons a couple of times last season, Melo is considered to be a good kid, and I'd expect him to stay out of trouble when he reaches the next level.
The future: It's hard for me to envision Fab Melo ever being the starting center on an NBA championship team. To be honest, it's hard for me to even envision him being a long-term starter in the league. But as a backup center and an occasional spot-starter, Melo should have a decent career in the NBA.
The background: Like Melo, Joseph was a relative non-factor as a freshman at Syracuse. And like Melo, Joseph made significant improvements in his sophomore season. He was honored as the league's sixth man of the year and it looked like the sky was the limit for Joseph. However, the improvement never really came.
Sure, his scoring average increased and he became a better 3-point shooter. But Joseph arguably took a step back as a junior and then never really dominated as a senior. In addition, Joseph was at his worst in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, averaging just 10.0 points on 33 percent shooting for the tourney. He left Syracuse as one of it's 25 best players of all time, but a guy who left the fans (and probably the coaches) wanting a bit more.
The scouting report: Joseph is a good athlete with a knack for getting to the rim. He is skilled when it comes to contorting his body in mid-air to bend around shot blockers, and he has a decent left hand, though he's much more comfortable going right. In terms of slashing to the basket, Joseph's biggest weakness is his inability to pull up from eight or 10 feet off the dribble. He's basically in the constant mindset of "I'm getting to the rim, and that's it," which can be a good quality, but it can also be a problem when he faces teams with a shot blocker.
Joseph was an awful 3-point shooter during his first two years at Syracuse, however he improved to have a nice touch by his junior and senior seasons. He is a good free-throw shooter, though he developed a knack for missing clutch foul shots in big games. Defensively, it's a little bit hard to judge Joseph, because he played on the wing in Jim Boeheim's 2-3 zone. But at times, it looked like Syracuse's opponents were targeting his side of the zone. He definitely needs to improve on defense if he's going to guard 2s and 3s in the NBA.
The future: I just don't see Kris Joseph having an NBA career. His ceiling is probably a rotation player as a team's eighth or ninth man. And it wouldn't surprise me at all if his professional career starts and ends overseas.