While NBA training camp is obviously a great way for fringe players to strut their stuff and prove they deserve a shot to break into the league, it also gives teams the opportunity for teams to find out which of their guaranteed players may need some work.
Some players may stroll in to camp out of shape. Perhaps others happen to struggle against the fierce competition. With so many veterans vying to win playing time in a crowded Boston front court, the Celtics are trying to figure out where rookie Fab Melo fits in.
Though they did lose Ray Allen to the rival Miami Heat, Boston still made sure the likes of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce remained in the fold. Thus, they extended their window of opportunity (albeit it, just a bit) to make another run at a second NBA title with this core group.
And in the interest of winning, the Celtics have added veteran big men like Jason Collins, Darko Milicic, and even Chris Wilcox will be back. Is Melo ready and able to make worthy enough contributions to this experienced squad that will warrant him playing time over the others?
The team isn't so sure, and thus, may be considering time in the D-League as the best possible option, for the big man out of Syracuse, to start the season. As SB Nation's "Celtics Blog" notes, Melo has already struggled to adjust to the NBA game. What's more, eligibility issues ended his final campaign in Syracuse early. Spending time with the Maine Red Claws may grant the big man an opportunity to get used to the more intense and fast-paced competition.
If he isn't going to get many chances to hit the hardwood in the Boston, the opportunity to play some heavy minutes and gain experience (in the NBADL) would certainly be a benefit for Melo. But as he looks to make the transition into the NBA, what better mentor would a team rather an incoming rookie have than Kevin Garnett?
As a first round pick, the talent and potential is undoubtedly there for Melo. There isn't a need to explore and/or look for a guarantee of that in the D-League. What the Celtics have to decide now is what method of development will benefit the young big man more: zoning in and watching more of the NBA game, all the while taking notes from KG, or simply hitting the hardwood to gather up as much experience as possible.
For a rookie who is guaranteed a spot and will be expected to contribute at some point down the road, providing Melo with a consistent and easy path (rather than changing squads, traveling back and forth between locations) may aid him in easing into the NBA game a bit more. At the same time, the Celtics have used its D-League affiliate to help grow their young talent before, and its proven to be a successful method. It'll be interesting what the ultimate decision with Melo will be.