(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Orlando Pinstriped Post turns its attention to the 2012 NBA Draft with a look at mid-tier draft prospects who might be available when the Orlando Magic select 19th overall. Previously in the series: Meyers Leonard, Terrence Jones, Arnett Moultrie, Moe Harkless, Doron Lamb, Tony Wroten, Jeffery Taylor, Andrew Nicholson, Marquis Teague, Kendall Marshall, Perry Jones, and Royce White.
Fab Melo enters the 2012 NBA Draft known primarily as a shot-blocker and anchor in Syracuse's famous two-three zone defense. Though unquestionably raw, Melo's sheer size--he measured 7-foot-0 at the Draft Combine, weighing in at 255 pounds--makes him attractive for teams drafting in the mid-to-late first round. Prospects with Melo's combination of size and defensive aptitude aren't terribly common, and the lack of quality bigs around the league will certainly play in his favor on Draft night. Centers who do the proverbial dirty work--or, if you prefer, centers with no offensive game of which to speak--are far from sexy, but they'll always be in demand.
Melo helped his stock tremendously with his dramatic improvement in his sophomore season at Syracuse. His minutes per game increased from 9.9 to 25.4, thanks in large part to his abilty to avoid fouls: as a freshman, referees whistled Melo for a foul every 5.5 minutes on average, but that figure improved to 10.2 minutes as a sophomore.
Melo also improved as a shot-blocker, sending back 2.9 per game in his most recent season, compared to 2.8 fouls. His block percentage--an estimation of the percentage of opponent two-point attempts a given player rejects when on the floor--stood at 13. That's better than one in eight! For comparison, NBA blocks leader Serge Ibaka sent back 8.9 percent of opponent two-point tries during the 2011/12 season. And while the NBA and NCAA are radically different, Melo's 13-percent block rate nonetheless illustrates his dominance at that level.
Melo averaged just 5.8 rebounds per game at Syracuse, but its zone defense artificially suppresses the rebounding averages of some of its players. Matt Kamalsky of DraftExpress writes that Melo is a solid "area rebounder" who's still improving on the defensive glass.
Offensively, Melo is an "interesting" prospect, says Kamalsky, but "has a long way to go to be an effective post-up threat." Melo is far better at finishing off teammate lobs or missed shots than he is at creating his own shot with his back to the basket, and whichever NBA team drafts him will have to work hard to make him a scoring threat.
Why he fits for Orlando:
The Magic badly need another shot-blocking threat, as the team lacks anyone who can protect the rim whenever Dwight Howard sits. Glen Davis proved surprisingly capable as an offensive player at center in Howard's absence, but his lack of height, reach, and leaping ability made him a defensive liability. Under former coach Stan Van Gundy, the Magic's defense schemed to take away three-point shots and funnel opponents to the middle, where Howard could block or alter their shot attempts. Without him, drivers get to the rim with impunity. Melo, even early in his NBA career, could change that, given his size and impressive shot-blocking skill. The need for a defensive center becomes even more pronounced if the team trades Howard.
Why he's not a fit for Orlando:
Even without Howard, the Magic have reasonably talented bigs in Davis, restricted free agent Ryan Anderson, and Earl Clark. One can argue that the power positions are Orlando's strongest, in which case taking another big at no. 19 overall would be a waste, given the team's lack of depth at the point and on the wings. Further, the team ranked 14th in offensive efficiency in 2011/12, and Melo will do precious little to impact that area of the floor for the better.