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Drafting the Orange: Fab Melo

NBA executives hope that Fab can protect the rim like this in the pros.  Richard Mackson-US PRESSWIRE
NBA executives hope that Fab can protect the rim like this in the pros. Richard Mackson-US PRESSWIRE

The NBA draft is a weeks away and the Syracuse Orange have four players up for selection. Some have left early and others are only going because the NCAA says they're not allowed to play anymore. Drafting the Orange will follow Scoop, KJ, Fab and Dion as they prepare for the draft and the next phase of their basketball careers.

The Physical:

Player: Fabricio Melo

Age: 21

Height: 7'0"

Weight: 250

Wingspan: 88"

Vertical Leap: not measured

The Statistical (2011-12 season):

MPG: 25.4

PPG: 7.8

BPG: 2.9

FG%: 56.6

Path to the Draft: Fab is currently in Florida, working out at the IMG academy. He signed with the Wasserman Media Group and is being represented by former NBA player BJ Armstrong, who also represents Rick Jackson. Eventually, Fab intends to move his training to the Los Angeles area where WMG is based. He's also apparently taking SU classes online, so perhaps he won't screw with the Orange's APR as much as initially suspected.

Pro Prospects: The word on Fab is pretty consistent; an uncanny shot blocker in college who would be a project in the NBA. He's been rated 18th among sophomores and the 28th overall draft prospect. Based on those rankings, Fab would go in the late first round, where most Syracuse fans expect. One pundit compared Fab to Dan Gadzuric, which isn't exactly a flattering comparison, until one considers that Gazduric has been in the NBA for nearly a decade.

Analysis: Of all the players leaving the Orange for the draft, Fab's potential has the widest possible range. He's a legit 7-footer who's mobile enough to cover the whole lane and run the floor, and has shown flashes of ability on the offensive end. Given the right situation and coaching, Fab could blossom into a very good NBA player. On the other hand, he could just as well eat/drink/party himself out of the league over the duration of his rookie deal. Those that follow the big Brazillian wouldn't be surprised either way.

Taking a middle-of-the-road view on Fab's potential, though, it's hard to argue that he can't or won't have a relatively long, if pedestrian, NBA career. Big men, more than any other position, get the benefit of the doubt. The aforementioned Gadzuric is a prime example. A player with the size and mobility of Fab need only be serviceable in order to secure a spot on an NBA roster. What Fab adds is an instinctual feel for the game that's surprising given his lack of experience. He has a knack for being in the right place at the right time on both ends of the floor, whether it's being in position to catch a lob on the pick and roll or getting to a spot on defense to to block a shot or, even more impressive, take one of his signature charges.

Now, of course, these things have been said about plenty of young centers who haven't panned out (see: Thabeet, Hasheem). The keys to Fab's success don't lie with his skills. After all, there's nothing that Andris Biedrins, Omer Asik or even NBA Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler can do that Fab can't do. In fact, there are some things Fab has in his game (a 15 foot jumpshot, anyone?) that none of those guys have. The key to Fab's success lies with him playing his size. The key lies in not being a Thabeet; being 7'+, but playing 6'2". For 15-20 minutes a night, Fab needs to channel the Big Bastard who held Herb Pope to fours points and blocked 10 shots against Seton Hall. That will make him a valuable NBA player. From there, he can work on realizing his full potential and perhaps becoming a star.