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Did the One-and-Done Rule Save Fab Melo from NBA Disaster?

Rush The Court

While it seems the NFL and NBA labor negotiations have little effect on Syracuse fans (outside of hoping they avoid interruptions of our games via lockout), there is a significant reason to pay attention.

Here’s a nugget I stumbled across this week regarding the NBA labor dispute that conjured up the image of Orange big man Fab Melo.

As a part of the next collective bargaining agreement, the players want to take away the age restriction that’s been implemented since the ’05-’06 season. One year removal from high school has forced the John Walls and Derrick Roses to enroll at colleges, spend two semesters pretending they’re not ready for the NBA, and then proceed directly to the league once they’re allowed to.

Here’s the Players Association’s stance on the matter:

“We want to go back to the way it was. The players have always been philosophically opposed to it. The vast majority of players feel a player should have the right to make a living. If he has the talent and wants to make money to help his family, he should have that right. It’s just a matter of principle.”

The players have it right. Once a guy’s done with high school, he should be able to seek a living where he pleases. Historically, do most of the players that forego college end up realizing they’ve screwed themselves over? No doubt about it. A change back to the way things were would cause a lot of not-so-bright decisions to be made about futures. But in this case, the players should have the right to be stupid.

If you’d like to keep the one-and-done rule intact, though, there may not be a better argument out there than the large Brazilian dude standing in the middle of the Syracuse zone –until his coach yanks him from the game after about 3 minutes of mediocrity. Then he’s just a large Brazilian dude sitting in the middle of the Syracuse bench.

Fab Melo’s numbers to date: 2.3 points per game, 2.3 rebounds per game. He is a project – a big project. He is far from NBA-ready.

Flashback to July. Coach Boeheim to Sports Illustrated’s Seth Davis:

Fab is “a strong contender for national rookie of the year.”

So even for one of the brightest basketball minds out there, it’s possible to completely miss the player evaluation boat from time to time. Granted, there were plenty of people who saw Fab for what he is – raw potential. If you sifted through the hype, and obviously most people don’t (I’m guilty), you could have seen this coming.

But just imagine if the age restriction didn’t exist, and some GM was stupid enough to waste a first-round pick on Melo. What a disaster. And if you try to remember what the general consensus on the young seven-footer was like prior to the season, you’ll realize that in the non-one-and-done rule alternate universe, someone would have nabbed Melo early in the draft. He was the Rivals 2nd best center in the country for crying out loud.

Luckily, the college level is defined by player development, because that’s what breeds respectability, winning and recruiting. Syracuse will establish itself as the prime big man factory in the country if the program proves it can develop raw talent and send polished athletes to the NBA.

So Melo is more of a project than the Per’fesser thought. Whatever. It’s not like SU invested millions of dollars in him with a first-round draft pick. The sense of urgency for him to produce doesn’t exist like it would in the NBA. Fab is in a nurturing environment, he has tons of people looking out for him and mentoring him, and the fans aren’t really going to get on his case.

I’ll say it once again – 18-year-olds should have the right to earn a living playing in the NBA.

But I’m still happy Fab never got the chance.

Posted: Andrew Kanell

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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