Is Fab Melo the biggest NBA draft bust of the lottery era?

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

A team that needed size just cut a player who not long ago was considered one of the top bigs of his rookie class. The implications of the action is damning, to say the least.

The Dallas Mavericks have seen enough of 23-year-old center Fab Melo, deciding to cut the big man on Tuesday after bringing him in for training camp on a non-guaranteed contract during the preseason.

Though Melo's time in the pros has been short-lived, NBA disappointment is nothing new to him. Melo was selected No. 22 overall by the Boston Celtics in the 2012 NBA Draft. Ever since, he's been set on a trajectory to become one of the least impressive first round picks in the history of the draft.

It didn't always look so bad for Melo. A standout at Syracuse, Melo helped the Orange win the regular season crown in the Big East. He was named the conference's Defensive Player of the Year as a sophomore, but would be ruled academically ineligible for the NCAA Tournament.

Melo decided to enter the draft after the season. Though he averaged just 4.9 points and 3.8 rebounds per game in his final year at Syracuse, Melo was aware there's always a premium on size in the NBA. The Celtics thought enough of him to scoop him up in the first round. Ever since, his pro career has been a major disappointment.

Melo only played six games last season for the Celtics, spending the majority of the season in the D-League. He played 33 games with the Maine Red Claws, averaging 9.8 points and six rebounds per game on 51.5 percent shooting.

Melo was released by the Celtics before the start of the season. It looked like he'd have a chance in Dallas, but things never worked out. Now his NBA career is hanging in limbo. What happened?

Melo's deficiencies offensively were clear even in college. The Celtics drafted him as a developmental project and hoped he'd become a defensive stopper to pair with Jared Sullinger or at least a viable rotation player capable of eating up some minutes at the center position. Melo is great at one thing -- being huge. At 7-feet tall and 255 lbs., he has the body to play in the NBA. But does he have the athleticism or work ethic to make himself a pro? Right now, it doesn't appear likely.

Since the draft lottery's inception, only two other players have played in as few games as Melo after being selected in the first round -- Troy Bell and Pavel Podkolzin. So, is Fab Melo the biggest bust in NBA history?

How the others stack up

Bell is one of the greatest players in Boston College history and a two-time Big East Player of the Year Award recipient, who notably beat out Carmelo Anthony to take the honor in 2003. His NBA career lasted six games with the Memphis Grizzlies, who acquired him from the Celtics on draft night.

The expectations for Bell were higher considering his stellar collegiate career. The C's took him with the 16th overall pick hoping he'd be the perfect point guard to pair with Paul Pierce. Instead, he was out  of the league and relegated to playing overseas for the rest of his professional career after a brief stint in the NBA D-League.

Podkolzin, the 21st pick in 2004, is yet another big who never materialized into what the Dallas Mavericks had hoped he'd become after trading for him on draft night in 2004. His six games spanned an agonizing two seasons, and he scored just four points and added nine rebounds over that span.

He never returned to the NBA and spent the rest of his playing career in his native Russia.

Melo's future

Melo may have struggled to this point, but he's still young and has plenty of time to work out his biggest issues on the floor. The best news in his case is that he won't lose his elite-level size, and there will always be teams that need a rotation big who can match up with inside scoring threats.

With that said, there's a long road ahead for redemption, and he'll have a lot to prove to the next team who takes a flier on him, if another one ever does.

Pretty much.

In any case, Melo needs to dedicate himself to developing a respectable offensive game and show a willingness to work harder than he ever has in order to save his career and prevent being labeled one of the worst first-round picks in NBA history. Unfortunately, it may be too late for that.

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