Celtics Place Large Orders on Draft Night

Marc D'Amico
Team Reporter and Analyst

By Marc D'Amico
June 29, 2012

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics made quick work of their to-do list at the 2012 NBA Draft by adding Jared Sullinger (Ohio State) and Fab Melo (Syracuse).

With only four players currently under contract, three of which are perimeter players, Boston needed to draft talent and it needed to draft size. It was able to add both of those qualities with the selections of Sullinger and Melo.

Jared Sullinger

The Celtics were ecstatic to land Jared Sullinger, an enthusiastic player who can do it all, during Thursday's NBA Draft

The Celtics chose the two collegiate standouts with back-to-back picks, the 21st and 22nd overall selections, in Thursday’s draft. They make their way to Boston from two highly-touted programs, and the C’s couldn’t be happier with the duo that will soon be donning green and white.

Sullinger and Melo were both regarded as first-round picks by everyone who cared to predict this NBA Draft, so it’s no shock that Boston landed them. According to the Celtics, however, both players were viewed as much more than just first-round talent by Danny Ainge and his staff.

“These are two guys we had rated a lot higher,” said Ryan McDonough, Boston’s assistant GM. “We thought they were both lottery talents, and frankly didn’t expect them to be there where we were picking.”

While Melo was pegged as a lottery talent by the Celtics, Doc Rivers happily confessed that he viewed Sullinger as much more than that. He and the rest of the C’s brass believed Sullinger was worthy of a high lottery pick.

“Number one is Jared Sullinger fell to us,” Rivers said. “It’s just fortunate. Last year he’d have been a top-five pick. All year (in 2011-12) he was a top-10 pick.”

Now he’s the 21st pick, and he’s a Boston Celtic.

By adding Sullinger, the Celtics add a versatile power forward who dominated college basketball in several different ways. He is a scorer who put up 17.4 PPG during two impressive seasons at Ohio State, the second of which culminated in a berth to the Final Four. Sullinger, a consensus First Team All-American in 2011-12, also pounded the glass to the tune of 9.7 RPG over his two seasons in Colombus.

If anyone knows the Celtics, they understand that this team has struggled in the rebounding department for quite some time. While Sullinger is slightly undersized for an NBA power forward, he brings the intangibles to the table that are necessary to dominate the glass.

“Jared is one of the better rebounders in the country,” said McDonough. “He has a great feel for where the ball is going to come off. He has terrific hands. His rebound rate per minute is very good.”

While McDonough didn’t go into that type of detail regarding Melo’s potential rebounding prowess, we do know that the big man possesses one advantage that always assists in the rebounding department: size.

Melo stands tall at 7 feet tall and registered better than a 7-foot-2 wingspan at the Draft Combine. Boston simply did not have that type of size on its roster a season ago, and Rivers will gladly accept such an addition to his roster.

“He has size, and we like size,” Rivers said via conference call from Newark, N.J., where he watched his son Austin become the 10th pick of the draft Thursday night. “We needed size.”

With the addition of two large bodies, one that is a long and bulky 6-foot-9 (Sullinger), and another which surpasses the 7-foot barrier (Melo), Boston is now in business down low. Interestingly enough, that wasn’t always the plan.

The Celtics were not dead set on drafting big men in this draft. McDonough said that the team wasn’t solely looking to reload its frontcourt, but that it couldn’t help itself from doing so when it was presented with a golden opportunity.

“Not necessarily,” assistant GM Ryan McDonough said when asked if the team was only looking at frontcourt players. “But it certainly doesn’t hurt. We obviously do need frontline depth.”

That’s what the Celtics now have as they head into free agency, which begins on Sunday. Sullinger and Melo join 2011 first-round pick JaJuan Johnson to create a budding young nucleus of big men for Boston’s future. And let’s not forget, those youngsters all might have the opportunity to be tutored by one of the greatest big men who ever lived. (That’s a story for another day…)

No one knows if class will be in session just yet, but what the Celtics do know is that they are equipped with youth, talent and size down low. That may not have been the plan all along, but no one in Boston is complaining about those results.

The checklist is complete for the NBA Draft. Now it’s time to move on to more pressing matters, which consist of two luminous letters: KG.