The Boston Celtics have been one of the worst rebounding teams in the league for the past five years. A team that his so proficient on the offensive end, could not shake the issues on the offensive and defensive glass. We all remember Game 7 of the 2010 Finals where the Celts were out rebounded 53 to 40 by the Lakers.
If the C’s are able to grab a few more rebounds in that game then this next season wouldn’t be “All about 18” but much rather “All about 19”.
In this year’s Eastern Conference Finals, the Celts struggled to grab rebounds in their series against the Heat. As is evident with any team, but especially the Heat, if you give a NBA team extra possessions, they’re going to make you pay.
Knowing these issues were prevalent, Ainge rolled the dice on his two first round picks. Both Jared Sullinger who is listed at 6’9″ and Fab Melo, a legit seven-footer, bring much needed height to a team that relied on KG at center, and an overmatched Brandon Bass to grab rebounds last season, not to mention the often injured Jermaine O’Neal.
The two draft picks certainly come with numerous question marks. The main issue which has been mentioned a few hundred times, concerns Sullinger’s back issues. Celtics’ doctors cleared Sullinger’s back so Ainge should be confident that it will not be a lingering issue. Last season Sullinger was projected to be a top 5 NBA pick, he decided to stay in school, and certainly took a hit in his wallet for it.
Only time will tell whether Sullinger’s back issue will cause him to miss substantial time during his Celtic career. We will find out shortly as the Celtics will play in two different summer leagues , Las Vegas and Orlando, starting July 9th in Orlando. Ainge and the Celts management expect Sullinger, as well as Melo to play in those games.
If things, which I think they will, work out for Sullinger, the Celtics could have the steal of the draft. Give it up to Ainge. He isn’t afraid to take a chance. If Sullinger works out Ainge looks like a genius, if he doesn’t who knows what will happen to a GM who has taken heat for recent trades (Perk) and draft picks (I’m looking at you JR Giddens).
Sullinger led his Ohio State Buckeyes to two Big-Ten titles in his only two years at the school. He averaged an impressive 17.5 points a game and grabbed 9.2 rebounds per contest last season leading his team to the Final Four before bowing out to Kansas in the semifinals.
His game is very close to that of an ex-Celtic favorite, Glen “Big Baby” Davis. Scouts have pointed out though that his jumper has a little more range than Davis. Sullinger shot an efficient 54% from the floor last season and could fill Davis 2010 role of being a rotation player, very nicely.
Sullinger’s coach at Ohio State, Thad Matta, recently was quoted as saying that Sullinger was the best player he had ever had at Ohio State. That’s pretty big words from a coach that once had a dominating Greg Oden take his team to the NCAA Finals as well as impressive point guard Michael Conley and a potential star in the making, in Evan Turner.
Whether you agree or disagree with the Sullinger pick you have to realize that the Celts have an opportunity to plug him in as a rotation player as soon next season, something that can’t be said for most players picked in the 20’s.
As high as I am on Sullinger, I may be as low on Melo. I hope I’m wrong but if the Celtics needed a tall lanky big man that can block shots, but is allergic to rebounding, then why not just re-sign Ryan Hollins?
Melo grabbed only 5.8 rebounds last season for Syracuse, but did prove his worth once he got suspended for the NCAA tournament. Syracuse, a pre tourney favorite, clearly missed their big man and lost to Sullinger’s Buckeyes in the Elite 8.
Melo is certainly a project for Ainge and the Celtics. A year or two being tutored by Kevin Garnett would do wonders for him.
The one thing Melo can do is block shots, something the C’s desperately need. He averaged 2.8 blocks a game and Boston will rely on him to duplicate those numbers in the pros.
Greg Stiemsma showed his worth as a shot blocker this season and adding Melo to the roster could give the Celtics an athletic shot blocker.
The few positives are outweighed by the negatives for a guy who has only been playing basketball for a handful of years. Ainge passed on better “sure” things by foregoing opportunities to take Perry Jones III and Arnett Moultrie.
Melo had issues at Syracuse, and that’s not counting the fact that he averaged less than 8 points per game. His character issues have been well documented as he was suspended numerous times for academic violations and was known to be a bit lazy. Let’s hope that Doc Rivers can whip him into shape both physically and mentally.
All in all if I were to grade the Celtics draft I’d give it a B. Ainge had the ability to take a chance on one of his picks, but pretty much took big chances on both. Sullinger should work out and only time will tell on Melo.
But if Melo works out for the C’s the Green could have their center for the next decade. If somehow Melo turns out to have a similar career of Los Angeles Clipper DeAndre Jordan, then Ainge will look brilliant.
In the second round the C’s selected another Syracuse Orangemen, Kris Joseph a senior who led his team in scoring last season with 13.8 PPG. If Joseph is to make the roster it could be more likely that the C’s failed on signing a scoring wingman, like Mickael Pietrus.
The Celtics roster has open spots but expect Ainge to throw money at a number of veterans for his bench. Also with JaJuan Johnson and E’twaun Moore returning for their sophomore seasons, Joseph may be on the outside looking in after training camp.
With the second round pick I wish the Celtics went with a backup point guard for Rajon Rondo. For a team that hasn’t had a legitimate backup for Rondo since Sam Cassell left town, you have to wonder why the Celts didn’t take a chance on Iona’s Scott Machado a pass first point guard who averaged 9.9 assists per game last season. Machado ended up going undrafted and will be on the top of every GM’s rookie free agent list.