Of the four former Orange basketball players entered into the upcoming NBA draft, Fabricio Melo is the most polarizing. Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine were leaving regardless, having run out of NCAA eligibility. Many debated whether or not Dion could have benefitted from another season ni Syracuse, but no one doubted that he had the skill to make it in the League. In Fab, though, fans and scouts see a player with nearly unlimited potential, but who is also surrounded by huge questions.
Every Syracuse fan knows the story. After a sorely disappointing freshman campaign, Fab dedicated himself to the game over the summer of 2011. He dropped a ton of weight, played with the Brazilian national team and returned to Syracuse the defensive monster that he was expected to be. As the anchor of the 2-3 zone, Fab was arguably the most important player on a record-setting Orange squad. This was made painfully clear when he was suspended twice for academic reasons. Of course, there’s nothing to say that, had Fab been available, Syracuse would have won the games they lost without him. But anyone who followed the team all year could plainly see how those games might have been different with the Big Bastard patrolling the lane.
With the NBA draft approaching, Fab is surrounded by the same questions he faced at the end of his freshman year at Syracuse. Which Fab will show up to the Summer League, the guy who dropped 30 pounds in a summer or the one who lost focus to the point where he was ruled academically ineligible? He’s a project, no doubt. Does have what it takes to mold jaw-dropping potential into a good (great?) NBA player? Will Fab be fab, or will he be a bust?It’s best to start by defining what exactly a “bust” is. It’s more that simply failing to live up to expectations. Plenty of players do that. Being a bust requires that expectations be high in the first place. Such hype is reserved for high draft picks. There are few Ewings, Olajuwons or Alcindors, who are touted as world-beaters and are able to live up to the hype. So, by comparison, everyone else is a bust.
Fab, though, is unlikely to be drafted in such a position. He’s projected to go anywhere from 15th to 25th. The NBADraft.net mock draft has him going 24th to Cleveland. Sure, players drafted late can become stars. But, for the most part, those drafted in that range are expected to top out at Roy Hibbert level; a solid, consistent contributor who has the skill to have a big night now and then. Hardly the hype required to label a guy a bust.
So, really, the only way Fab ends up as a bust is if he washes out of the league altogether. This is where I mention Hasheem Thabeet. After being drafted second overall by Memphis, Thabeet has been the biggest big-man bust since Kwame Brown (Greg Oden doesn’t count. His knees gave out on him). Yet both of those guys still have NBA jobs. Brown has been doing it for 10 years. Erick Dampier has been doing it for 15 seasons. An big man doesn’t need to be good in order to stick in the NBA. He simply needs to be big.
This is the advantage that Fab has over almost every other NBA player. Legit seven footers are such a rare and coveted commodity that if there’s even a miniscule chance that they can be effective on the court, someone will be willing to pay them. Hell, Eddy Curry still has a job.
So, even if Fab fails to average the pedestrian 8 PPG/6 RPG his projected draft position would dictate, he’s still likely to find a spot on someone bench for many years to come. In what world is that a failure? In what world does being counted among the 250 or so best basketball players in the world and getting paid millions of dollars to do so count as being a bust? In all reality, Fab can’t be a bust. Everyone knows how much potential he has, but they also know that it’s only that; potential. As much as he’s improved since arriving in Syracuse as a chubby freshman, Fab really has nowhere to go but up. If he does anything of note in the NBA, his career is a success.