When it comes to NBA-level defense, Melo not yet the man

When it comes to NBA-level defense, Melo not yet the man
June 29, 2012, 6:18 am
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BOSTON Zone defense.

Defensive Player of the Year.

The two seem like polar opposites that is, unless you're talking about former Syracuse University center Fab Melo who was taken with the No. 22 pick by the Boston Celtics.

Few players at Syracuse thrived defensively as well as Melo did this past season when he was named the Big East Defensive Player of the Year.

His success defensively came in Syracuse's vaunted zone defense, a brand of defense that his new team in Boston will play sparingly.

It remains to be seen if Melo's defensive prowess in a zone defense can translate well in Boston's man-to-man dominated schemes.

"That'll be a transition for him and Kris (Joseph, also of Syracuse who was taken in the second round by Boston)," said Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations. "It's just different fundamentals. I don't think it's that challenging. I think they'll be able to learn it. It's not like they've never played man-to-man. But there is an adjustment."

While Joseph is a bit of a long shot to make the C's roster, Melo will get an opportunity to establish himself coming off the Celtics bench this season.

In addition to adapting to playing more man-to-man, Melo's other big transition will simply be getting used to being a member of the Boston Celtics.

"We have to teach him the Celtic way," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "We have to teach him how to work and understanding playing as a winner; there's a lot of work to be done. But I love his size and potential. He has both of those things. And if he has great character, then he has a chance."

For Boston, Melo falls into the high-reward, low-risk category.

While his best days as an NBA player are ahead, the Celtics believe that he will eventually develop into a player that could play a meaningful role for them.

"He struggled some his freshman year at Syracuse," said Ryan McDonough, the C's assistant general manager. "And then I thought he improved rapidly this year."

After spending most of his freshman season at SU on the bench, Melo bounced back with a strong sophomore season which included being named the conference's defensive player of the year.

"The difference in their team when he was on and off the court was fairly significant," McDonough said.

But with a limited offensive game and not being a really good rebounder, Melo seems to have a game that's part Kendrick Perkins (offensively), part Glen Davis (draws charges) with a sprinkle of Ryan Hollins (poor rebounding) thrown in.

While that doesn't exactly sound like a player the Celtics can turn to now and expect much, Melo has the kind of potential that was just too good to pass on for the C's.

But it remains to be seen just how quickly that potential will be reached, if at all.

"Every rookie is unique," Ainge said. "I know that he can block shots. He was terrific this year at blocking shots. He was terrific at offensive rebounding. One thing that is unique with Fab is he blocks shots and takes charges. That's unique for big guys."