The Celtics selected two-time Ohio State All American Jared Sullinger with the 21st pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. They followed that by picking Syracuse center Fab Melo with the 22d pick.
Both Sullinger and Melo come with question marks, but for different reasons. Sullinger averaged 17.5 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks last season for one of the best teams in the country. He was the focal point of Ohio State’s offense, and he delivered with 51.9-percent shooting. Sullinger was projected to be a lottery pick, but questions about a potential back injury caused him to slide in the draft.
“The fact that Jared Sullinger fell to us is just fortunate,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “He gives us a rebounder, a high IQ player, great shooter from the outside.”
Sullinger’s numbers were actually better his freshman season, when he averaged one more rebound and shot 54 percent from the field. At that time, Sullinger was considered a probable top-five NBA pick. A somewhat lackluster sophomore season — as lackluster as another All-American campaign can be — muted the hype on Sullinger.
Rivers said he wasn’t concerned about the 6-foot-9-inch, 265-pound forward slipping in the draft.
“We had a bunch of guys on the board that we liked,” said Rivers. “He was one of them. He fell to us and that’s great. I’m hoping that the projections on him before the season were right.
“We feel pretty good about it, otherwise we wouldn’t have taken him. I played 13 years with a bad back. All the doctors we talked to gave him clearance.”
The book in Melo is completely different. Unlike Sullinger, Melo is a raw talent. He averaged 7.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks in his sophomore season at Syracuse. He anchored the team’s traditional 2-3 zone, a defense that did not prepare him for defending NBA big men. Still, Melo is a true 7-footer and has the chance to develop into an NBA center.
“Obviously we needed to address size,” said Rivers.”It gives us a chance to work with him. We took a flier on him because we think he can be a good player.”
Maturity is a question for Melo. He was held out of the NCAA tournament for No.1-seeded Syracuse this season after questions about his eligibility.
“We’re going to teach him how to work,” said Rivers. “That’s what we’re going to do for him. If he has great character then he has a chance.”
Rivers said the Celtics tried to trade up in the draft but did not have “nearly enough” to move into the top half of the first round. There were rumors earlier in the day that the Celtics were looking to move up to take Rivers’ son, Austin. Rivers would not confirm or deny those rumors, only saying the Celtics did not have enough to make a move.
The Celtics still hold the 51st pick in the second round of tonight’s draft.