Detroit Pistons #DraftDreams: Fab Melo

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  • Measurables: 7-foot-0, 255 pounds, sophomore center from Syracuse
  • Key Stats: 7.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.9 blocks per game, 57 percent shooting
  • Projected: Late first round to second round
  • Hickory High Similarity Score

Why I like this guy

Disappointingly, eligibility issues prevented Fab Melo from playing in the NCAA tournament. Much has been made about the Syracuse zone defense (Reggie Miller learned his lesson for questioning it), but it was undeniably something to behold this season with Melo anchored right in the center of it. Syracuse funneled everything to the big man, and he was 11th in the country in blocked shot percentage at 12.93 percent.

Melo is still raw and developing, but a young big man with defensive instincts as natural as his doesn’t come along every day. Sports Illustrated’s Luke Winn says it much better than I could:

Melo is simultaneously the Orange’s most obvious defensive force (by blocking 2.93 shots per game) and its secret weapon (by taking charges and creating turnovers).

Pros for the Pistons

Well, that’s obvious. The Pistons desperately need a defensive-minded big man to anchor their defense. He’s young, he blocks shots and, although like all young bigs he needs to get stronger, he comes with a big frame that should fill out as he matures physically. He protects the rim, but he’s also mobile enough to hedge out on screens, disrupt passing lanes and rotate to play help defense. I don’t have to tell anyone this I’m sure, but the Pistons haven’t had a big man who does all of those things for big minutes since Ben Wallace was in his prime.

But Melo also comes with a skill that is talked about less: he knows how to pass.  No one will confuse his passing with Greg Monroe, but because Melo lacks much of a post game on offense, he’s instead used to move without the ball, set screens and keep the ball moving. The Pistons aren’t necessarily looking for a dominant low post threat on offense, since Monroe more than capably fills that role. Melo could pair nicely with him on offense by feeding Monroe from the high post and making hard cuts to the basket, similar to how the Pistons used Chris Wilcox on offense during Monroe’s rookie year.

Cons for the Pistons

I’m not especially concerned about Melo’s inability to stay eligible at Syracuse, but if that does cause him to enter the draft early as some have reported, that could mean he may not be ready to contribute right away, which is really something the Pistons need with Wallace retiring and Charlie Villanueva‘s future in Detroit uncertain. Melo has the physical tools and upside that many teams will be interested, but he really could benefit from another year of college. His conditioning hasn’t been all that great, he could stand to add some muscle and his offensive game still lags far behind his defensive game. Those are all things that, if he returned, he could work on another year and possibly see himself jump into the lottery of next year’s draft.

Still though, if he’s around in the early second round, the Pistons shouldn’t hesitate to grab him.

What others are saying

Chad Ford:

The Good: Melo has size, mobility and the ability to change things on the defensive end for Syracuse. He’s an excellent shot-blocker and a decent rebounder. He has a better perimeter game than you’d think. He’s made huge strides from his freshman year.

The Bad: He’s still very raw. He can disappear for long stretches. He’s struggled to stay in shape in the past.

The Upside: When Melo plays well, NBA scouts drool. He’s never going to be an NBA superstar, but teams are in desperate need of big men who can run the floor, block shots and play defense.


Not only has Melo been a better shot blocker, but he’s been a better defensive player across the board as a second-year player. Still losing contact with offensive players on the weakside leading to an occasional easy putback for the opposition, Melo is much more well-schooled at positioning himself on the defensive end than he was last year, doing a good job splitting the difference between offensive players when the ball gets driven into the paint, stepping in front of players attacking the rim to draw charges, and going straight up to challenge shots around the rim. Committing 2.6 fewer fouls per-40 minutes pace adjusted, Melo has shown dramatic improvement in the way he contests shots and protects the rim.

Fab has the size and length you look for in a prospect at the center position, however he’s raw and will need to work on every offensive aspect of his game … He has some basic post moves, but the fluidity/explosiveness in his execution is too slow at the moment …Will need to work on developing more in depth post moves to become more of an offensive threat … He’s not the greatest athlete, and can get lost in an offensive set as he adjusts to playing in a faster and more up-tempo game.

Sports Illustrated:

Melo does not have the Orange’s lowest DRating (that belongs to Waiters), but it’s clear that Melo has the biggest impact. His engagement rate, or DPoss%, of 26.1 is the highest on the team, and the fact that he’s able to maintain a strong DRating (86.5) while impacting so many plays is impressive. Syracuse’s entire 2-3 seems to take its cues from Melo. “The most important position in the zone is the center,” assistant coach Mike Hopkins said. “Fab protects the paint … he lets us be more aggressive on the perimeter, and he’s the eyes for the whole defense, talking and directing everyone else.

New York Times:

Although he is not a guaranteed first-round pick, some N.B.A. team will probably be interested in his 7-foot, 275-pound frame. If he does not make the N.B.A., Melo could return to his native Brazil to play professionally.

What is the best thing Fab Melo does for his team?

Sean Keeley (follow him on Twitter) is the founder of SB Nation Syracuse blog (and one of the best team blogs anywhere) Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician and the author of How to Grow an Orange:

Fab Melo is only just beginning to scratch the surface on his potential. As over-hyped as a player could ever be, Melo spent his freshman season adjusting to the college game and his sophomore season perfecting it. It remains be seen if he can bang bodies with the Dwight Howards of the NBA, but while be bulks up, he brings a tenacious defensive attitude with him. His outside shot is nonexistent but you’re not interested in him for that. You want him for his shot-blocking ability and above-average ability to move the ball from the center spoke of the wheel. He’ll need time to develop further but just like at Syracuse, Fab is an investment worth the risk.