Before announcing that he would be entering the NBA Draft, the last we heard from Syracuse center Fab Melo was when he was being deemed ineligible for the NCAA Tournament. The Orangemen still made a decent run without him before falling to Ohio State in the Elite 8.
Melo makes for an interesting prospect study. His draft stock and his game would probably have benefited if he decided to return to Syracuse for his junior year. But he did enjoy a breakout season as a sophomore that resulted in him being named the Big East Defensive Player of the Year. Further clouding things are ineligibility questions and the fact that he is from Brazil, potentially making his thought process a bit different from your average college player.
It isn't hard to figure out Melo's primary asset. At 7-foot and 250 pounds, Melo has legitimate NBA center size. His 7-foot-3 wingspan enables him to alter shots effectively – he averaged 2.9 blocks-per-game in his sophomore season. Melo was a big recruit coming into Syracuse and was expected to contribute right away. Unfortunately, he struggled to assimilate to the college game and lacked conditioning.
Melo worked to right the latter of those issues heading into his sophomore year and it showed. He was more in shape and it helped his leaping and quickness on the defensive end both blocking shots and rebounding. Syracuse employs their famous zone defense so projecting how Melo fits in an NBA system will be crucial to teams considering him. Melo pulled down 5.8 rebounds-per-game this season, mostly through size alone. He doesn't yet have the instincts to be a volume rebounder, but again, it's hard to evaluate how he will transition from the zone. Instincts and "feel for the game" are things he has to continue to improve, but he made great strides between his freshman and sophomore seasons.
What will prevent Melo from getting anywhere near the lottery is his complete lack of an offensive game. This is clearly the last piece of his development as a player. He averaged 7.8 points as a sophomore and shot over 56 percent from the field, but most of points came on dunks and put backs from offensive boards. While his size enabled him to get by offensively at the college level, Melo has no semblance of a jumpshot and inconsistent evidence of a post game.
It's not all bad on offense for Melo though. He has shown good hands, solid footwork and a nice touch around the rim. These things suggest that there is at least some hope that through hard work, he can develop into enough of a threat on offense that it will justify him getting on the court.
Overall Melo projects as a late first round pick. He is never going to be a great offensive player, but he has the tools to impact games on the defensive end. As the saying goes, you can't teach size and Melo has it. There will always be a place for guys who can protect the rim in the NBA. Whoever takes him will be taking on a project that will require patience. As we saw in the similar case of Hasheem Thabeet, that is easier said than done.