This player scores 0.7 more points per game than this player. That center gets a half block more than the other one. NBA fans know all the numbers that are thrown out when comparing two prospects.
While the numbers are very important, they can often overlook the trends and tendencies that players develop over time that can be beneficial — or detrimental — to a franchise.
Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge selected two former Syracuse Orange players in the 2012 NBA draft by taking center Fab Melo at No. 22 and Kris Joseph at No. 51. By observing both players up close over the past two years (three, in Joseph's case), Celtics fans can get a sense of what to expect from their final two draft picks both on and off the floor.
Melo, a 7-foot center from Brazil, has more to him than the obvious claims many analysts will make. At this point, most knowledgable Celtics fans know about his suspension from the 2012 NCAA Tournament and his week off in the middle of the season when Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim sat him on the bench pending a separate academic investigation. Melo did have legal troubles as well, as he was arrested for a misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief for allegedly breaking the turn signal arm off his girlfriend's car during an argument.
But what lies beneath the surface of the big man is actually the mindset of a hard worker. Well, athletically that is.
The McDonald's All-American was named the Big East preseason Rookie of the Year in 2010 before he had played a single minute for the Orange. But Boeheim never let him ride easy. Where others saw a dominant big man, Boeheim saw someone who was out of shape, slow and soft down low.
Melo played a role that many Syracuse fans laughed at, and he was even referred to as a "tip-off specialist" because the freshman would start the game for the jump ball and immediately be subbed out for the first half.
Without getting the playing time he felt he deserved, Melo didn't get angry, discouraged or think of transferring. Instead, he did what he apparently failed to do with his professors: he listened.
Melo worked hard and dropped over 35 pounds off his frame. He embraced his role as a player quickly sent to the bench, and took the time to learn the game. Once a 280-pound freshman, Melo returned for his sophomore year at 245 pounds with a much greater knowledge of the defensive end of the floor, eventually winning Big East Defensive Player of the Year in 2012 while setting a Syracuse single-game record for blocks with 10.
His willingness to drop the weight and accept his role off the bench showed more than that he has "raw talent" or he has "an NBA body." It shows he can listen to coaching and he can work hard — attributes that should serve him well at the next level.
It's true that Melo's basketball IQ isn't tremendous. Syracuse fans know all too well of his tendency to goaltend and commit offensive fouls, often resulting in insults about his intelligence. But the work ethic and listening are key, especially since he has a pretty good duo to learn from in head coach Doc Rivers and potentially Kevin Garnett.
Joseph, meanwhile, presents a different set of tendencies for fans to expect. Both on and off the court, Joseph is mild-mannered. Very rarely will you see the 6-foot-7 forward get emotional on the floor, argue a call or disagree with a coach.
He is a capable athlete with a good handle on the ball for his size. But where Joseph will most help the Celtics is with his overall attitude. Plain and simple, Joseph is a leader. He was deemed the heir to the Orange after his sophomore season, when he was Syracuse's sixth man on a deep tournament run, actually leading the team in scoring over lottery pick Wes Johnson. Everyone in Central New York knew this team would go as far as Joseph would take them. And he did take them far.
Joseph was a true leader dealing with the Bernie Fine molestation allegations, as well as handling the team during Melo's absences. He kept the team together, always referring to his team with fellow senior Scoop Jardine as "a family." Throughout the ups and downs of his collegiate career, Joseph has always shown to fans and the media that he puts his team first.
When Dion Waiters, this year's fourth overall pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers, emerged off the bench as the Orange's premier scorer, Joseph didn't fight it. He instead learned to adapt. He got Waiters open looks, and he impacted the game running the fast break, rebounding, setting screens and waiting for open shots.
Joseph never forces the issue, as he is an extremely unselfish player. He will not be a rookie who tries to outplay his capabilities.
He has shown brief flashes of NBA-ready skill, though, displaying athleticism for his size. A leader, Joseph doesn't shy away from the clutch moments, which he showed in knocking down a game-winning 3-pointer against rival Georgetown in overtime during the 2011-12 regular season.
What fans can expect from Joseph is an athletic wingman who will be a leader in the locker room. He will have a learning curve, and some speculate as to whether he will be able to enjoy a long stay in Boston. But as long as he's around, the mild-mannered forward will never stray from Doc's words, never fight with the front office and will bring the Celtics together as his new family (just as he did while at Syracuse).
People can look at Melo and Joseph as "projects" and analyze how they will fit in on the floor. But off the floor, fans can expect the duo to jell perfectly with the Celtics.
That's something that could definitely pay off in the long run.
Thumbnail photo via Facebook/FabMelo