Once the draft was over, the first waves of free agency officially peaked and the landscape of the NBA was reshaped, people began the process of ranking deals to determine which team “won” the off season.
Some pointed the finger at teams like the New York Knicks, Boston Celtics and Minnesota Timberwolves for the big-name new players they brought into their respective orbits, others praised Brad Stevens for turning a 30-year-old Rudy Gobert years into a market-resetting collection of draft picks, and others still highlighted teams like your neighborhood friendly Philadelphia 76ers for expertly playing the margins and leaving the period with a pair of more rotating players .
Some call it the forgery, others call it the “Michael Rubin special”; either way, James Harden came in and allowed Daryl Morey to really reshape the team to both of their tastes.
And yet, there’s one member of the Philadelphia 76ers offseason class that just isn’t getting enough love; a player who should serve as a force multiplier for Philly this fall. With the NBA season fast approaching, let’s show some love to De’Anthony Melton and see how much of an impact he could have on the team’s fate.
De’Anthony Melton is a perfect sixth man for the Philadelphia 76ers.
In 2021-22, the Philadelphia 76ers didn’t really have a sixth man for much of the season.
On paper, that player was originally supposed to be Tyrese Maxey, but when Ben Simmons decided to turn his attention to Call of Duty and the Kentucky prospect far exceeded expectations both in camp and during preseason, its role has expanded considerably. Philly then turned its collective gaze to Shake Milton, who has filled the role in the past, but he too was unable to fully take on the role during the regular season as he only appeared in 55 matches and did not look exactly alike. From February to mid-March, where he averaged just 3.5 points per game from February 11 to March 20.
Now granted, when James Harden came to town, the need for a traditional sixth man became much less important, as Doc Rivers began to stagger his starting guards to allow the two performers to run the show, but when the push came in the playoffs, Milton’s ability to pull buckets off the bench against the Miami Heat kept the competition going even if it ultimately didn’t result in a berth in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Luckily Daryl Morey saw it too, and although he opted to bring Milton back after some reports suggested otherwise, the decision was made to seek out another guard in hopes of elevating the team to new heights.
Enter De’Anthony Melton, the Pheonix Suns rookie who got a four-year, $34.6 million extension with the Memphis Grizzlies in November 2020.
In 2022, $8.65 million can’t buy a team much, especially for a player on a second contract. Sure, Kenrich Williams just signed a four-year deal with a $6.85 million AAV, which is great value, but when teammate Lu Dort just signed a deal with a 17-year AAV, $5 and Jalen Brunson is on his way to making $26 million a year. Over the next four years, it’s hard to really find the top six productions on AAV’s under $10 million.
Melton might be one of the few exceptions to this rule.
Standing at just 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds – albeit with the wingspan of a 6-foot-8 player – Melton is a fantastic off-ball goalie who can play any point in the backcourt, defend the opposing players one to three at a time. very high level, and hit 3s catch-and-shoot at a 40.6% clip. He was one of the most statistically efficient players for the Grizzlies last season, ranking seventh in assist percentage, sixth in use and seventh in PIE behind the usual plus suspects Shaq Buchanan, and even third on the team in WAR. behind Desmond Bane and Jah. Morant.
Impressive, right? But wait, there’s more; According to FiveThirtyEight, Melton ranked fourth on the team in Total Raptor Rating behind Bane, Dillon Brooks and Brandon Clarke, signifying obvious prowess at both ends of the court. Considering Melton’s TRR would have finished second on the Sixers behind lone Joel Embiid in 2021-22, it’s safe to say $8 million was very well spent.
A very good player perfectly suited to the needs of the Sixers.
Will De’Anthony Melton be a legitimate difference maker for the Philadelphia 76ers? In some games, yes, you bet, but on the season as a whole, it’s hard to imagine Melton being more than a very good role player in a team whose fate will be defined by the play of Joel Embiid and James Harden. And yet, it’s hard to argue that adding Melton wasn’t a slam freakin’ dunk, as he can fill more than a few gaps in the team’s game plan and provide that sixth man off the bench. Philly was sorely lacking last season.