For years, NBA franchises all worked under the same philosophy when it came to the NBA Draft -- if a center is there and you need one, take'm. However, for the past four seasons there's been a different trend as only one true center -- UConn's Hasheem Thabeet -- has been taken in the top 5.
(Today's recent trend followed a four-year span where Dwight Howard (2004), Andrew Bogut ('05) and Greg Oden ('07) were all selected No. 1 overall, respectively.)
However, the '12 NBA Draft will switch back to the historical norm a bit, as collegiate center Anthony Davis -- who will more than likely be a forward at the professional level -- will be the No. 1 overall selection by the New Orleans Hornets. From there, two more top-center prospects, UConn's Andre Drummond and Syracuse's Fab Melo, will try to prove their worth when they become first-round selections.
Overall, projections have Drummond going ahead of Melo, however, we believe that would be a huge mistake by a NBA GM. Melo isn't just the next Thabeet, instead, we think he's going to be a very productive pro for a long time.
Fab Melo 2012 NBA Draft Video (via TheMikeSchmitz)
What They've Said
"Fab did a fantastic job, he put in the time, energy and effort in the last offseason," Ross said. "He dropped 35 pounds, cut his body fat from 14 to 8 percent. He became much more agile and more mobile and that really paid off. I think his shot-blocking will translate. Offensively, I think most NBA teams think he is a work in progress, but they will be surprised by his ability to shoot the 12- to 15-foot jumper," -- Melo's high school head coach Adam Ross to Miami Herald, June 27.
What They Are Projecting (Mock Drafts):
ESPN.com's Chad Ford: No. 24 to Cleveland Cavaliers.
NBADraft.net: No. 25 to Memphis Grizzles.
CBSSports.com's Jeff Goodman: No. 21 to Boston Celtics.
CBSSports.com's Matt Moore: No. 26 to Indiana Pacers.
DraftExpress.com: No. 24, Cavaliers.
If picked in the first round, Melo will be the first Syracuse center taken in the first round since Ethan Thomas in 2002. Thomas went on to play nine years in the NBA.
What We Think:
Over the course of the 2011-12 season, Melo and Drummond matched-up a few times and each of those times it was apparent about which player was not only more important to their team's success but a better player overall -- Melo.
The Brazilian was not only more of a physical presence inside but held the mental edge over his counterpart.
Now, we understand head-to-head match-ups at the college level doesn't lead to professional success and Drummond showed a lot of promise in a Feb. 25 performance (17 points and 14 rebounds) at Syracuse. However, defensively Melo' ahead of Drummond as he anchored the 2-3 zone and, by the end of the season, was the most important piece in SU's lineup.
The knocks on Melo will be two-fold, as many front office brass will be scared away from his academic issues that forced the 7-footer to miss parts of the regular season and all of the NCAA Tournament. Thus, making a risky pick.
Melo will be also criticized for his mediocre rebounding numbers, which could be attributed to playing a 2-3 zone defense, and his lack of inside moves on the offensive end. Many will say, Drummond has much more potential on offense than Melo does -- we will agree.
However, ask Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim about Melo's work ethic, personality and abilities, and he will tell you he's worth the risk -- if there really is any.
Melo was able to improve leaps-and-bounds from his freshmen year -- which basically featured him being one of the biggest McDonald All-American busts in recent history -- to sophomore season -- which he won the Big East Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
Not only is Melo a better defensive threat (right now) than Drummond, but offensively Melo has shown that he's aggressive with the ball when needed, does have a mid-range shot which will develop and can make free throws.
Don't get us wrong, Drummond had a lot of upside as he's more of a "basketball athlete" than Melo -- don't forget Melo has been playing hoops for just a few years, so he looks a bit awkward out there at times, while Drummond has been doing this his whole life -- and is a few years younger -- Melo improved drastically from year one of college to year two.
All-in-all, however, we're betting on Melo to be the better prospect for all the reasons listed above.