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Friday, June 29, 2012

2 Orange & 1 Buckeye Are The Newest Boston Celtics

After much speculation about Boston trading up in the 2012 NBA Draft, maybe even to select head coach Doc Rivers's son Austin, the Celtics ended up keeping all three of their original picks: No. 21 (Jared Sullinger, sophomore power forward, Ohio State), No. 22 (Fab Melo, sophomore center, Syracuse) and No. 51. (Kris Joseph, senior small forward, Syracuse).

All three players are particularly well known to college basketball fans since not only are they from two of the better programs and more prestigious conferences (Big Ten and Big East respectively) but the Buckeyes and Orange faced each other in the Elite 8 at TD Garden this past March. I'd say that Danny Ainge did all the scouting he needed then but Melo was suspended for the NCAA Tournament so there goes that half-ass lazy theory.

Of those guys, Sullinger (@Jared_Sully0) is by far the one that makes me most hopeful. The two-time All-American would have been a Top-10 pick if he left Ohio State in 2011 after his freshman year. It's not that he had a bad sophomore season (17.5 points, 9.2 rebounds) as the Buckeyes went to the Final Four but in his case two things worked against him: more exposure meant increased scrutiny and possible issues with his back raised a red flag the last few weeks at workouts.

He's a great low-post player that is also able to step out and hit jumpers consistently. He gets to the basket, draws fouls and hits free throws. Perhaps most importantly for the Celts, he knows how to rebound (one of their biggest issues last season). Sullinger is pretty slow and not particularly agile so it'll be interesting to see if he can be as effective against bigger and faster guys in the NBA. One thing's for sure: he knows how to play the game and he's a winner which is why I think this was a steal for the C's provided his back holds up.

Which leads me to Melo (@fabpmelo); I have already bashed the man in print (check out last week's Metro Boston boom/bust Draft preview) but I have to admit that he made sense in this spot. There weren't many other great options then and his potential upside is huge if he can just get focused. He was the Big East Defensive Player of the Year last season with 7.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.9 blocks for the Orange. If nothing else, he can give Boston the defensive presence at center (he's a legit 7-feet) that they've lacked. I don't know if I'd call him a project (although his offensive game is very basic) but I certainly would be surprised if he gives the Celts much his rookie season. It'll probably be a big adjustment for him to the NBA but that's usually how it goes with big men.

One could argue that the Joseph (@Krisjo32) (13.4 points, 4.7 rebounds last season with Cuse) pick was a throwaway choice so it didn't really matter but I have to say that I didn't really understand it. I saw him a million times in college (since he was a senior) and he never impressed me despite the fact that he led Syracuse in scoring the last two seasons. He's just OK at everything: shooting, driving, passing and playing defense. He could have a hard time making this roster next season although that's not to say he couldn't hook on in a less intense environment.

I'll keep you updated to see if these players will be on the Summer League teams that begin play next week. I doubt the Celts' front office would let Sullinger suit up. Melo seems like he could and you know Joseph will be there from Day 1.

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