With the draft done, the initial waves of free agency officially crested, and the NBA landscape shaped anew, folks have begun the process of grading deals to determine which team “won” the offseason.
Some have pointed to teams like the New York Knicks, the Boston Celtics, and Minnesota Timberwolves for the new, big-named players they brought into their respective orbits, others have lauded Brad Stevens for turning a 30-year-old Rudy Gobert into a market-resetting collection of draft picks, and others still have highlighted teams like your friendly neighborhood Philadelphia 76ers for expertly playing the margins and leaving the period with a pair of plus rotational players.
Some call it tampering, others call it the “Michael Rubin special;” Either way, James Harden came in clutch and allowed Daryl Morey to really reshape the team to both of their likings.
And yet, there’s one member of the Philadelphia 76ers’ offseason class who just isn’t getting enough love; a player who should serve as a force multiplier for Philly this fall. With the NBA season right around the corner, let’s show a little love to De’Anthony Melton and see just how impactful he could be 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 initially supposed to be Tyrese Maxey, but when Ben Simmons decided to turn his attention to Call of Duty and the Kentucky prospect vastly outperformed expectations both in camp and during the preseason, his role vastly expanded. Philly then turned their collective sights onto Shake Milton, who has filled the role in the past, but he too was unable to fully embrace the role during the regular season, as he only appeared in 55 games and didn’t look exactly like himself from February through mid-March, where he averaged just 3.5 points per game from February 11th through March 20th.
Now granted, when James Harden came to town, the need for a traditional sixth man became far less important, as Doc Rivers started to stagger his starting guards to allow the two performers opportunities to run the show, but when push came to shove in the postseason, Milton’s ability to get buckets off the bench against the Miami Heat kept things competitive even if it didn’t ultimately result in a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Fortunately, Daryl Morey saw this too, and while he did opt to bring Milton back after some reports suggested otherwise, the decision was made to shop around for another guard in the hopes of elevating the team to new heights.
Enter De’Anthony Melton, the Pheonix Suns draftee who secured a four-year, $34.6 million extension with the Memphis Grizzlies in November of 2020.
In 2022, $8.65 million can’t buy a team a whole lot, especially for a player on a second contract. Sure, Kenrich Williams just signed a four-year deal with an AAV of $6.85 million, which is great value, but when his teammate Lu Dort just signed a deal with an AAV of $17.5 and Jalen Brunson is about to make $26 million a year over the next four years, it’s tough to really find top-six production out of less than $10 million AAV.
Melton might be one of the rare exceptions to that rule.
Standing just 6-foot-2, 200 pounds – though with the wingspan of a player standing 6-foot-8 – Melton is a fantastic off-ball guard who can play either backcourt spot, defend opposing players one-through-three at a very high level, and hit catch-and-shoot 3s at a 40.6 percent clip. He was one of the more statistically effective players on the Grizzlies last season, ranking seventh in assist percentage, sixth in usage, and seventh in PIE behind the usual suspects plus Shaq Buchanan, and even third on the team in WAR behind Desmond Bane and Jah Morant.
Impressive, right? But wait, it gets better; According to FiveThirtyEight, Melton ranked fourth on the team in Total Raptor Rating behind Bane, Dillon Brooks, and Brandon Clarke, signifying a clear prowess at both ends of the court. Considering Melton’s TRR would have ranked second on the Sixers behind the only Joel Embiid in 2021-22, it’s safe to say that $8 million dollars has been very well spent.
A very good player perfectly suited for the Sixers’ needs.
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 really good role player on a team whose fate will be defined by the play of Joel Embiid and James Harden. And yet, it’s hard to argue that Melton’s addition wasn’t a slam freakin’ dunk, as he can fill in more than a few gaps in the team’s game plan and provide that certain sixth man pop coming off the bench Philly sorely lacked last season .