Memphis Grizzlies: Fab Melo Brings Tantalizing Defensive Talent To Grizzlies

The Boston Celtics were looking to dump some salary. The Memphis Grizzlies got a third big man last week when they traded forward Donte Greene to the Celtics in exchange for former first-round pick Fab Melo.

Melo was the 22nd overall pick in the 2012 draft after two seasons at Syracuse, the second of which he was named the Big East Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year after blocking 88 shots in 30 games.

The 7-foot Brazilian is extremely raw. He played one year of basketball at Sagemont (Fla.) High School and two years with the Orange before turning pro.

Melo played in just six games with the Celtics last season, logging 36 minutes with seven points, three rebounds, two steals and two blocks. He made 3-of-6 shots from the floor and was 1-for-4 from the free-throw line.

Perhaps a better gauge of where Melo is as a player is the 33 games he played for the D-League’s Maine Red Claws. Melo started 31 games for Maine and averaged 9.8 points, six rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game. He also shot 51.5 percent from the floor. The biggest problem Melo had was actually just staying on the floor—he averaged 3.4 fouls in just 26.2 minutes per game.

Melo is definitely a project, but he’s in a good situation in Memphis. Marc Gasol is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and he’s entrenched as the Grizzlies’ No. 1 center and Kosta Koufos came over in a trade from the Denver Nuggets this summer to be the backup.

That means Melo has time, perhaps getting quality minutes in the D-League with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the Grizzlies’ new affiliate for 2013-14.

The potential is there. Melo had a triple-double for Maine last December, including a D-League single-game record 14 blocked shots.

Boston wanted to lose Melo because he had a guaranteed $1.3 million coming to him this season and despite dumping a bunch of salary, the Celtics are still over the luxury tax limit. Greene, on the other hand, is on a non-guaranteed deal—there are no salary cap implications should the Celtics opt to release him.

The Grizzlies signed Greene last April after he has spent the season playing in Puerto Rico, but he never played for the Grizzlies. Greene was taken 28th overall by the Grizzlies in the 2008 NBA Draft—also out of Syracuse, coincidentally—but the 6’11” power forward was part of a draft-night trade, with his rights going with a 2009 second-rounder to the Houston Rockets that brought Darrell Arthur to Memphis (also coincidentally, the player who, along with the draft rights to Joffrey Lauvergne went to Denver to bring in Koufos).

Before Greene could play for the Rockets, he went to the Sacramento Kings as part of the deal that brought the former Ron Artest to the Rockets. He played four years with the Kings and averaged 6.1 points and 2.4 rebounds in 16.8 minutes a game.

For the Grizzlies, the deal is a terrific one—trading a guy who never played and who wasn’t going to play for a player who has tremendous upside at a position where the team doesn’t have a dire need.

It’s a small deal for now, but if Melo develops at a Fab-ulous rate, it could be an absolute steal for Memphis.

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