The fifth in a series of profiles of players that might be of interest to the Boston Celtics during the 2012 NBA Draft (June 28, ESPN, 7 p.m.):
Projection: Mid-to-late first round (Insider rank: 26; Position rank: 4)
In the news: Melo recently opened up about his academic woes during his sophomore season at Syracuse, which eventually held him out of the NCAA Tournament. From ESPN.com: "The Big East Defensive Player of the Year is traveling around the country, working out in front of NBA scouts and trying to answer one question: Why should a team spend a high draft pick on a player who couldn't finish last season because of academic problems? "It was academic," Melo said Tuesday after working out for the Pacers in Indianapolis. "They ask, I explain (what) happened -- that I came from another country and until four years ago didn't even speak English."
Why the Celtics Want Him: You can't teach size in the NBA, and Melo's a monster, physically. Standing at 7 feet and over 250 pounds, Melo has the build to be a hulking, physical defender, and every team would love to have one of those. The Celtics have benefited from a player filling such a role in the past, namely with Kendrick Perkins, and while there are no guarantees that Melo would have the success in Boston that Perkins had, he could mold and develop his game in a similar manner. With accomplished bigs like Dwight Howard, Al Horford, Tyson Chandler, and, yes, even Chris Bosh all residing in the Eastern Conference, it might not be a bad idea for the C's to add some size to their roster, and Melo already brings steady defensive and rebounding chops to the table (although he's currently a far better shot blocker than he is a rebounder).
Why the Celtics Don't Want Him: In the report listed above, Melo's on the record saying he still considers himself new to the game of basketball, so it's not a stretch to imagine him being more of a long-term project than a short-term solution. The Celtics would be drafting him for his potential, and he would certainly have to develop a still very raw offensive game, and prove that he can maintain a high level of focus and competitiveness for a 48-minute basketball game. Size doesn't always translate to success in the league, either. Consider former UConn center Hasheem Thabeet, another foreign player who entered the league with raw skills and has yet to develop into a serviceable NBA contributor. As we move closer to draft day, the Celtics might decide that Melo is just too much of a wildcard in a draft in which they can't afford any significant blunders.