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On Sunday, the Celtics’ second-round draft pick, Kris Joseph, played his fifth game for the NBA Development League’s Maine Red Claws, scoring 21 points in a 103-90 win over the Canton Charge. First-rounder Fab Melo also made his fifth D-League appearance on December 6 so, with that milestone out of the way, let’s take a look at how the Celtics’ two minor league assignments have fared thus far.
Joseph and Melo, who were also teammates last year on Syracuse’s Elite Eight team, have played in three games together, going 2-1 in those contests and contributing to the Red Claws’ 5-2 record, tops in the Eastern Division. They will take the floor again Friday in Fort Wayne, Indiana, when they take on the Mad Ants, who they have already beat twice this season. The Red Claws will be looking for their fourth consecutive victory.
The 7-footer was re-assigned to Maine on Wednesday after a brief stint back in Boston, and has yet to play a regular-season game in a Celtics uniform (he played only sparingly in the preseason). In his first five D-League games, he has averaged 6.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in 23.4 minutes per game. True to his reputation as a defensive specialist, he’s struggled from the floor, except in his second game, a 5-point win at Fort Wayne on November 25, where he scored 14 points on 7-for-10 field goals in 18 minutes. In his next appearance, a home loss to Los Angeles, he played a career-high 29 minutes and recorded 11 rebounds, but shot poorly once again.
Going forward, expect Melo to continue to get upwards of 20 minutes of playing time per contest. While his scoring numbers probably won’t increase significantly, his rebounding totals should – he’s shown he can be at or near 10 boards per game, but now he needs to do so on a more regular basis.
The Canadian forward has had some stellar outings, and he has the numbers to prove it: 37.8 minutes per game, producing 20.8 points, a remarkable 6.6 rebounds, 2 assists and 1.8 steals. He does, however, have two areas that he will need to improve on significantly, namely field goal percentage and turnovers.
Sunday’s game was the first in which he shot better than 50%, as he went 9-for-15, but he’s at 40.4% for the season. Joseph already seems to be aware of his struggles from the floor and is wisely addressing them by shooting less. His field goal attempts have gone down in each game he has played – after taking 45 shots in his first two contests, he hasn’t had more than 17 in any of the last three. He’s especially struggling from long range and has made just 3-of-16 from three-point territory. His three turnovers per game are also a minor concern, given his lack of assists.
Despite those issues, his 20.8 ppg are good for ninth in the D-League, fourth among players with at least five games played. Joseph, unlike Melo, has made his Boston debut, although he’s played a total of just nine minutes over three games. The good news is that the injury bug hasn’t bitten the Celtics yet, so the two rookies will be able to continue honing their skills in Portland over the coming weeks.