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The Maine Red Claws, the Celtics’ NBA D-League affiliate, closed out 2012 with a comfortable 105-84 home win over the Springfield Armor on Monday. At 10-5, the Red Claws lead the East Division and own the second best record in the league overall. The Red Claws have benefited immensely in recent games from the improved play of one of their Celtics assignments, center Fab Melo. Let’s take a look at the progress of Melo and the Celtics’ other D-Leaguer, Kris Joseph, thus far this season as they try to develop into NBA regulars.
On a December 22nd home loss to the Erie BayHawks, Melo blocked 14 shots, a D-League single-game record, and added 15 points and a career-high 16 rebounds for his first career triple-double. He followed that up four days later with a career-high 32 points, to go with 9 rebounds and 9 blocks, in a win at Idaho. His numbers weren’t quite as good in the next two games, but he still had a double-double in his last one, a loss at Sioux Falls. Melo sat out Monday’s game with a mild concussion.
A big factor in Melo’s increase in production over his last four games has been an increase in his playing time: he’s averaged over 35 minutes in those matchups. Through 12 games played, Melo is averaging 10.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.8 blocks, good for second in the league behind new Celtic, Jarvis Varnado.
Doc Rivers has made it quite clear that the team has no intention of bringing Melo up to the big leagues any time soon (the signing of Varnado was further proof of that), and the Brazilian big man’s recent progression shows that the Celtics made the right decision by not rushing him and allowing him to hone his talents in the D-League.
The Celtics’ other assignment, small forward Kris Joseph, has had a very different end to 2012. Joseph was recalled by the Celtics ahead of their four-game road trip, but played a total of just 14 minutes in Brooklyn, Los Angeles and Golden State, and not at all in Sacramento. In six NBA games so far Joseph has shot just 2-of-11 from the floor, and is averaging 1.2 points in 4 minutes per game.
Before rejoining the Celtics, Joseph continued his good play with Maine. Although his shot selection is still a work in progress (he’s 40.3% from the floor), he has very solid numbers in other categories: 19.5 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.9 steals. It is unknown how long he will remain with the Celtics, but it is probably safe to say that the C’s are better off having him in Maine, where he can continue his progression.