After a terrific offseason including, a great draft, trip to Istanbul and Milian, and finalizing the roster to 15 the Celtics open up the NBA season tonight against their rival, the Miami Heat.
Before we do so, I'm proud to kick off this years first Rookie Round-Up. Throughout the season we will review the Celtics rookies and their contributions as the season progresses. In our first we'll take a look at the rookies' background, their journey into the NBA, and their role this upcoming year.
A Great Start
The offseason started off well for the Celtics as they owned back to back picks in the first round at numbers 21 and 22 in the 2012 NBA draft. Rumors surfaced that sophomore Jared Sullinger from Ohio State was flagged with back issues that dropped his stock from a high lottery pick to a potential risk in the later rounds. Sullinger, a standout Power Forward and two time All-American in college waited as the Draft went on and his name was uncalled. And then it happened; "With the 21st pick in the 2012 NBA Draft the Boston Celtics select Jared Sullinger from Ohio State". Jared had fallen into the lap of Celtics' President Danny Ainge and he wasn't about to pass on a player of that caliber.
Following the Celtics marquee selection was that of Fab Melo from Syracuse University who was taken as the 22nd overall pick. Melo, a towering 7 foot Center was the 2012 Big East Defensive Player of the Year and first Syracuse center taken in the first round since Ethan Thomas in 2002. Melo was largely considered a project by analysts as he would have to adjust to a faster pace and more man-to-man defensive schemes compared to the 2-3 zone he played at Syracuse.
In the second round, at the 51st overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, the Boston Celtics selected senior Kris Joseph, a small forward from Syracuse University. Kris played all four years of college basketball and was Syracuse's leading scorer in both his junior and senior seasons averaging about 14 PPG. This was the second year in a row the Celtics selected players who were teammates in college and hoped their relationship would help with their transition to the NBA.
July marked the beginning of Summer League play with the Celtics opening game on July 9th in Orlando, FL. The summer league roster gave us a first look at the Celtics 2012 draft picks and two stand-out free agent guards by the name of Dionte Christmas and Jamar Smith. Christmas was originally only invited to the Celtics' 5 games in Orlando but after averaging 12 PPG and 6.2 rebounds he was later asked to continue with the team in Las Vegas.
Three games into the Summer League's Las Vegas showcase Danny Ainge was able to pull off a sign and trade deal with the Houston Rockets for veteran guard Courtney Lee. This meant the departure of 2011 Draft picks JaJuan Johnson and E'twaun Moore and increased playing time for the new rookies. Jared Sullinger was the highlight of the series, finishing summer league averaging 12.5 PPG and 8.5 RPG. Kris Joseph played his best in Orlando averaging 9.4 PPG and 5.8 RPG. Of the rookies, Fab Melo played the least amount of minutes averaging about 16 MPG but made some highlight plays on and off the court.
The Celtics Rookies joined their new teammates as they flew out for the start of the preseason overseas in Istanbul and Milan. The trip proved to be successful for the newcomers, as they played well and were able to bond with the team as a whole. Jason Terry made it a priority to mentor Dionte Christmas and the two were hardly ever seen without one another. Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo were put to the test under Kevin Garnett's leadership and both seemed to be open to the tutelage. Garnett even gave out nicknames for the rookies calling Jared Sullinger "Sully" or sometimes "Young’n," Christmas was known as "Temple" because of his college days at Temple in Philadelphia. Kris Joseph was labeled as "Shawn," simply because KG said "he looks like someone named Shawn," and Fab Melo was called just Melo because Garnett says he felt strange calling another man "Fab."
Sullinger started 5 of 8 games averaging 26 MPG, 11 PPG, and 7 RPG. Kris Joseph and Fab Melo played more end of the bench roles as the rest of the squad looked to develop chemistry. With limited time, Joseph was able to make the most of his minutes getting 10.8 MPG and averaging 4.6 PPG with just under 2 RPG.
As the preseason moved on, Dionte Christmas struggled after being a stand out in summer league play. The race for the final roster spot seemed to he his initially as the Celtics guaranteed $263,800 of his first-year player minumum salary ($473,600). Until in somewhat of a surprise, both Christmas and Jamar Smith were released by the team before the final games of the preseason, increasing Kris Joseph's position for the 15th spot. Just days following their release it was reported that free agent guard Leandro Barbosa was signed to a veteran minimum contract and formally announced that Joseph had made the final roster. After a long road the Celtics and their 2012-2013 rookies were set for the season.
Coming into the 2012-2013 NBA season the Celtics have arguably the deepest bench in the NBA. The bench is full of players who could likely start for other teams and who will certainly provide some much needed scoring for our starters. Our rookies will certainly play a role for the team being lead by Jared Sullinger who could possibly break into the starting line-up. With this being said, here are some predictions for each of the Rookies who made the final squad.
Jared Sullinger: Celtics fans and analysts have a lot to say about our top draft pick. Some believe Sullinger will crack the starting rotation months into the regular season and even foresee him achieving the Rookie of the Year award. Lets not get too far ahead of ourselves at this point but breakdown the logic behind Sully starting.
Brandon Bass was a tremendous upgrade from Big Baby last year and this offseason got the contact he proved he deserved. Bass played well with the first unit, exploding to 27 points that carried the team in one game of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals against the 76ers. However, his style of game play masks that of Garnett as they're both jump shooters. While it helped space the floor it also proved to hurt the Celtics rebounding the ball, something Sullinger is particularly good at, especially on the offensive glass. If Sullinger can grind underneath the basket, grab rebounds, and putbacks he very well could start in the coming months. Sullinger has proven he understands his role and doesn't need to be a focal point in the offense as he once was at Ohio State. He has also gotten tremendous praise from Coach Doc Rivers, Rondo, and Garnett for his high Basketball IQ. and natural ability to read game situations. Sully will certainly become a quality contributor off the bench and in time could get the call to the starting line-ups.
Kris Joseph: Kris proved his ability and worth battling through the summer league and preseason. When making the final decision about who to keep for the 15th roster spot, Joseph proved to Danny Ainge and Doc that he hasn't hit his highest potential. The Celtics can take one of two routes with Joseph. He could remain on the team, slowly develop his game in practice and late game situations. This could prove to be beneficial as we have so many veterans that each have their own skill set Joseph could learn from. The Celtics could also send Kris north to the Maine Red Claws (the Celtics newly acquired D-League team). This would allow him to play at a high level of competition on a consistent basis and could be called up if any injuries weaken the Celtics' roster.
Fab Melo: Just like Kris Joseph, Fab Melo's future in the NBA could begin with the Maine Red Claws. Of this years draft picks Melo is considered to be the biggest "raw" talent that's still in need of quality minutes to understand the game. If he says with the Celtics, free agent Leandro Barbosa (also from Brazil) will certainly help Melo understand the NBA game and hopefully can create a bond together. Melo has only played basketball for a few years dating back to his start in Brazil and with time could certainly develop into a solid role player in the future.
All in all our Celtics team looks to be a contender once again for an NBA championship. Our rookies production this season may be minimal but their development is crucial to the continued growth of our team in years to come. With the right leadership and hard work I think there's a tremendous upside looking ahead.
Excellent report on the rookies. I'm excited about Sully this season. He just has a knack for rebounds and I agree with you that he and KG compliment each other. Defense may keep him off the court until he gets the NBA defenses down, though.