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Danny Ainge Talks About Sullinger, Melo and Joseph

Danny Ainge spoke with the media about Boston’s 2012 draft slate, which featured a healthy dose of added depth in the frontcourt, something the C’s desperately needed heading into this offseason. Here’s a few key comments from Ainge about his trio of rookies (Jared Sullinger, Fab Melo, and Kris Joseph):

Overall assessment: “”I think we got a 3, 4, and a 5. We didn’t draft on need, although big guys are hard to find. Quality bigs are the most challenging position to find in the draft and free agency, so we are very excited about the results tonight.”

On what he expects out of Melo: “I know that he can block shots. He was terrific at offensive rebounding. One thing that is unique with Fab is that he blocks shots and takes charges and that’s unique for big guys.”

On Sullinger’s back issues and his potential need for surgery down the road: “We got wind of the back issues, which was causing him to slip a bit. He was projected much higher last week. We were fortunate to get him. We were concerned and did our research on the back issues and felt comfortable. There are some issues there and our medical staff thinks short term and long term there may be some maintenance issues with the back. Doc Rivers played with a herniated disc for 13 years. It may need surgery at some point, it may not.”

On Sullinger playing in summer league: “I think so. He’s playing right now and playing well.

On Kris Joseph: “Kris is an all-around player. I like his potential. He can shoot, he can put the ball on the floor, he’s got good size for his position. We had him in for a workout, we watched him closely this year and he performed well at a workout. He wasn’t as consistent as he could of been at Syracuse, but he has shown flashes of being a good player.

On Sullinger being a complete player: “I’ve liked Jared longer than his years at Ohio State. He was a dominant high school player. He’s been good everywhere he’s been and his team wins. What I like about him is he’s complete. He can shoot, pass, and rebound. One thing he can do that he didn’t do much at OSU. He can make shots from the perimeter. You see him do that a little bit on film. I really like his stroke. I hope he can improve that area [the shooting] because that’s a big part of our offense.”

On Sullinger’s post game translating to the NBA: “We’ll see. Length is an issue. He has good width. There were a lot of these kinds of issues with Glen Davis when he came in but these guys just find a way. Guys that are smart and have a good touch and feel make the adjustment.”

On how draft picks help fill out the roster: “I think they fill needs. We are drafting the best players but we do need size. We’ll see how the roster fills in from here on out. We have a lot of work to do.”

Can these rookies run with Rondo? “Oh yeah, sure. Sullinger is not a sprinter, but he is a rebounder and you have to have the ball to run. I think that will be important”

Draft picks impact on free agency: “I think that for a team that is trying to win, it’s tough to count too much on three rookies coming in. Maybe one will be ready to go, maybe two will be able to play a certain role. We’ll try to fill with veterans from here on out.”

On overall impression of draft: “I’ve very optimistic for these three guys. They have a bright upside. They are all workers, and want to improve. We’ll see if they make the adjustments.”

Did they come close to making a deal? “We tried, but we never got to a point where teams wanted to move for what we were offering. I’m not sure how close we were. We weren’t going to sell the farm to move up in the draft.”

In case you missed them earlier tonight, here is some video highlights and background on all three players

With the 21st pick (in the 2012 NBA Draft!) the Celtics selected PF Jared Sullinger from Ohio State. Sullinger’s a 6’9″ lottery talent — albeit one who fell as a result of potential back problems. He’s also a back-to-the-basket big — albeit one who is earthbound.

With the 22nd pick (also in the 2012 NBA Draft!), the Celtics selected Fab Melo, a 7’0″ Brazilian center out of Syracuse. Melo projects as a project but gives the Celtics size they can mold and a potential shotblocker in the middle.

  • High Rollers

    Weren't going to sell the farm to move up. Sounds like Danny has big plans for the farm. He's going to need 'em to contend with the aging youth of LBJ & Co. and the youthful youth of KD, AD, etc.

    Free agency… it's on!

  • felix

    sounds like Sully is a steal, but with a legitimate back issue, which is not to be denied.
    oh well, i'm sure he's better than Acie Earl.

  • I was promised Royce White!!! How dare Darrell Morey steal him from us and ruin ever single mock draft??

    Seriously though, I was hoping the C's would add some athleticism, but it looks like we got a couple of stiffs. I don't blame Danny for the picks though, the guys I was hoping for just weren't available when we picked.

    Melo is so new to the game and has so much size that I've got some upside hope for him. Sullenger seems like Big Baby 2.0 with no comical nickname or ridiculous facial expressions. That's not much fun, but I guess it's the best you can expect to do picking in the 20s.

    • Phil

      Seems like it just wasn't meant to be as far as Royce White goes, he got too hyped as we got close to the draft, and he rose too high. I doubt he would've fallen to the Celtics even if the Rockets didn't take him.

      The hope with Sullinger is that he's better than Big Baby, which he could be with a more competent offensive game. I assume he won't have nearly as big of a problem with consistency either, that was the biggest problem with Baby.

      As far as Melo, I don't know. I'm trying to keep an open mind, but I keep hearing words like 'project', and potential ceilings of Joel Pryzbilla and Kendrick Perkins minus the intangibles. I've gotta be missing something if its the goal of a project to turn someone into a player who only plays on one half of the ball, and is limited there. Perk is pretty much the ultimate at what he does, but even he's a liability against some teams defensively, and always offensively. I just don't see the upside; we had Perk, and he wasn't worth 6m a year/more than a 7th man.

  • Morpheus

    Basketball Gods must be smiling because Sullinger was a damn STEAL.

  • Sophomore

    I hope folks are right about Sullinger being the real deal, because in the highlight reel he looks like a slower Baby Davis, with less strength, less lift, and a bad back.

    • Johnny

      i don't think that highlight reel was actually his "highlights." i think it was more to show the wide array of offensive skills he possesses. he has a much higher basketball IQ than Baby and is much more competitive in my opinion. though the back issues do scare me i think this was a steal in the draft.

  • skeeds

    ugh… Forget bringing KG back to play put him on the coaching staff! Between Sullinger, Melo and JJJ, we need a big men coach. I bet KG could bark some real improvement out of these guys.
    Anyway, Sullinger is around Big Baby's level. But 2012 Baby, not rookie. So he's got room to improve into a solid 4, if (like Baby) he learns to take advantage of being a constant mismatch. Very smart guy too, he'll fit right in.
    As for Melo, l'm optimistic. The guy has the physical potential and the defensive aggressiveness to become a DeAndre Jordan type of player. If he buys into the idea, works on his body and embraces that kind of "enforcer" attitude, he'll be great. Physically, Rondo hasn't had anyone even close to this kid to work with until now. I'm guessing dunks all over the place.

    Let's not forget. This team, under Doc, has consistently pushed guys overperform, and exceed their potential. I'm optimistic. If there's anything in these kids, he'll find it.

  • Ben

    I was really upset we passed on PJIII but am starting to talk myself into Melo. They say he is a project, he has no offensive game, is a poor defensive rebounder (though maybe from playing zone) etc. But he is new to the game and lost 30lbs between his freshman and sophomore year so that shows he is willing to work. I guess we'll wait and see on Melo…

    • Sophomore

      Yeah, I have to say I find it surprising that he's an above average offensive rebounder but has trouble on D. Assuming you aren't just putting back your own misses, it's harder to rebound on O; you need anticipation and motor. Putting your butt into someone when you're playing man defense is much easier.

      • LACelticFan

        Its harder to rebound when playing in a zone. Multiple men must be blocked out as opposed to a man defense where you are responsible for blocking out your man. I was cool on passing on PJIII when i heard meniscus problems, he could end up like Jon Bender.

  • GreenM&M

    Best you can do is take a shot in the dark when drafting this low. And Sullinger may turn out to be sneaky-good/ crafty around the basket. Kind of like Luis Scola.

    • janos

      ok thank you

  • CG12

    I'm so tired of people wildly over-valuing measurables like vertical leap over things like KNOWING HOW TO PLAY BASKETBALL. There is a lot more to being a pro basketball player than running and jumping, and lots of superb athletes succeed with less obvious traits like brains, hard work, balance, and timing. This isn't the frigging dunk contest or the AND-1 tour, this is the NBA, and you can't win with guys who don't know how to play. A guy like Jared Sullinger might actually play right away, because he knows what he is doing. Melo is an obvious project, but is a legit 7-feet and can move pretty well. I have no complaints with taking a flyer on him. And I'm quite pleased they passed on Perry Jones III, for the same reasons I love the Sullinger pick. Jones has yet to show he knows how to play, or even wants to play. KG doesn't have time for that crap.

    • red

      You say that now but at 6'11 perry Jones will be a monster next year for OKC I see him as rookie of the year and Melo will not be close to the player pj 3 will be

      • zach

        so then 27 teams will have passed on the ROY. I trust Danny on this one

      • Anthony

        While I also wanted PJ3 with the 22nd pick, I say no way he can be ROY. I think he can be a great player and a future starter (but not in OKC though).

    • Phil

      There are plenty of players that get by with brains instead of elite athleticism and jumping ability, they just have a lower ceiling than someone with both. No one's doubting that Sullinger can be Big Baby or Brandon Bass, they're doubting he can ever be anything better than a 3rd big. I don't have a problem getting a third big with that pick personally, but that hinges on his back being fine.

      As far as Melo, he lacks BB IQ 'and' elite athleticism, so not sure where the optimism comes from there. The bust rate for guys who's only marketable skill is being seven feet tall bust way more often than guys like PJIII.

  • janos

    hi bryan is janos
    today recent, yesterday am send email haynes gethelp on ESPN inside acount not get reply ; he on vacate curent?

  • zach

    Jared was a perfect pick – we need someone who knows how to play. Melo is a project, but there will not be playing time for 2 rookies next year so that makes sense – it is really hard to get any 7 footers who can move at all, and he has great defensive ratings. When you draft in the 20s all you can hope for really is guys that will contribute something

  • lakershater13

    Really hoping Sullinger proves me wrong. I see him as a less athletic Boozer best case scenario or a not so good Baby Davis worst case scenario. Really not high on this pick. He is a half court big. We need guys that can get out in transition with Rondo unless Ainge is shopping him again. I think everyone knows who Sullinger is with not much upside. I thought Perry Jones was the obvious pick here. A 6'11 SF who can spread the floor, block shots, and finish above the rim on the fast break. At this point I hope Jones is a huge bust after the Cs passed on him.
    Melo I was actually a bit happier with that pick. Rondo made Hollins look good on a few alley oops last year. I'm sure Rondo will help him get some easy dunks this year and KG will certainly help him develop on defense. He is known for defense but he played a lot of zone in college. KG will have to teach him solid one on one defense. He has only been playing basketball for a few years so I think he could have a really high ceiling. He also has drawn comparisons to Kwame and Diop. Ibaka came in the league after only playing a couple years and that worked out great so im trying to stay optimistic about Melo.
    Our second round pick I cannot say much about. When you take a second rounder you just hope you got the best player available and hope he can make the roster.

    • zach

      Is Baby a bad "worst case scenario" for a guy you pick 21? Remember Baby won a lot of games for us, and played well in the playoffs this year. I am glad we dumped him for Bass, but for # 21 you could do worse. If Sully is a more sane Baby (i.e., a solid rotation player in the NBA) with longer arms and better post moves and shot selection that would be a great outcome for #21

    • Phil

      I've really started talking myself into Sullinger. I had him marked down in my mind as a lottery bust for a few months now, so I've gotta override that thought. I think he can probably step in and play right away, something few rookies could do for this team. He can rebound, which is what the team desperately needs, and he's better than Baby on offense and Bass on defense. I wish he could run the floor, but I think a better version of Brandon Bass is his year one projection, and that's really good for the pick. All assuming his back doesn't explode of course.

      • zach

        I like Sully, but that may be optimistic – I am not sure Thomas Robinson will be better than Brandon Bass was *next year* BB was good last year! He shot lights out, and almost all rookies struggle

        • Phil

          You're probably right, but I'm also a lot lower on Bass than a lot of people. I thought his defense really hurt the Celtics at times, and I don't think he's that hard to replace on offense. Sullinger can definitely be better than playoff Bass when he stopped making jumpers.

          I'm interested to see how polished Sullinger's offensive game is, because while he may have trouble scoring over big defenders, he's not a bad jump shooter and he does get fouled a lot. The Celtics will miss Bass in transition most of all if Sullinger takes his place.

  • Anthony

    With some time to re-think the draft choices, I guess it could've been worse.

    Sully provides us some flexibility in terms of Bass' future with the team. If Bass wants $7-8 mil per, the Celts can let him walk and still have a service-able PF. Sully was the safe pick, plain and simple.

    Juries still out on the Melo pick. I still think Perry Jones or John Jenkins would've been better at #22. PJ3 is a potential starter after Truth retires and Jenkins is the best shooter in the draft. As big as Melo is, he's still a project and unlikely to contribute any more than Hollins. And as the 22nd pick, he'll get paid more than Hollins and SWilliams and roughly the same as Stiemsma and JJJ. Bill Simmons also pointed out the Celts could've rolled the 22nd pick till 2016 when it becomes unprotected. And since the pick belonged to the Clippers, it can potentially be a lottery pick, maybe even a top 5. Isn't that just as good a project as Melo? Just saying.

    • WI-celtics fan

      With the way the clippers are playing now with cp3, I disagree with ur draft pick idea on rolling but also feel pj3 or Jenkins would have been better, but I don't hate the melo pick.

      • Anthony

        CP3 is not the player he was and he's signed till end of this season. And even if he does re-sign, can he produce at the same level in 3 yrs? Lastly, we're talking about the Clippers… they're always in the lottery. They had 2 winning seasons, which includes last season, in the last 20 years.

        I guess my point is if you're going to take on a project, you take the guy with the highest ceiling which was PJ3.

        Guess we'll have to wait and see what DA has in store for free agency.

        • Anthony

          My bad, actually they had 3 winning seasons and one .500 season since they moved to LA in 1984. So about one winning season per decade. =)

        • zach

          I think given the huge slide PJ3s knee must be a big concern

        • Phil

          The argument for rolling the pick has nothing to do with CP3 and everything to do with Donald Sterling. They'll be a playoff team as long as CP3 as there, but they'll always have the ability to drop down to laughing stock with an owner so focused on squeezing money that he's willing to punt having a coach to save a few bucks.

          That said, expecting a front office to roll a first round pick over four years just for the hope of moving up 10-15 spots is completely unrealistic; fans would hate it, and there's no guarantee that Ainge is gonna be here in four years. Its not even a slam dunk from a basketball perspective since you could have someone helping you for those four years.

          • Anthony

            @zach… you're probably right about PJ3's knees.

            @phil – all good points but I'm having serious doubt about Mr. Melo's contributions in the next 4 years. Also the Celts roster already has a lot of rookies and sophomores. It took a day but I'm sold on the Sully pick, barring any issues with his back of course.

  • LACelticFan

    I like both picks as they give us some room in the cap as both guys will only get about 1mil for the next three years along with JJJ and AB, Greg, and Moore(if the latter two are resigned). That is 1/3 the roster for peanuts. Paul and RR eat up 27mil. Leaves still around 20mil plus a couple midlevels. And depends on if the want to go over the cap and/or luxury tax. Both picks bring defense, size, strength, and glasswork. Melo is definitely a project, but Coach Hill can make him into a player. We wanna make one last try, but have to think of the future. I personally didnt like Jones III knees. Knees for athletic guys are essential, as backs are for power guys, but power guys adjust faster to what they have to do to be successful. Remember Jon Bender.

  • Jeremy

    should of taken will barton after Fat Melo and instead of Kris Joseph should of taken Drew Gordon Scott Machado marcus denmon . Fab is really a up side pick though i dent think they will be expecting much from him for a few years jared sullener is a freaking steal most polished big man in the draft