The Memphis Grizzlies were holding tight on the 8th seed, when the NBA decided to pause the season due to the coronavirus outbreak. Memphis did a spectacular work by putting together young “pieces”, who could merge well, creating the much-needed chemistry for the team to make an impressive run this season.
De’Anthony Melton was really a ‘steal’ for the Grizzlies when they traded for him last summer. While many turned their attention on the former no. 3 of the 2017 NBA draft Josh Jackson and whether he could salvage his career, after two disappointing seasons with the Phoenix Suns, the prospect of Melton playing along with Morant was really intriguing.
The Perfect Fit (?)
Melton is a combo-guard with an endless motor and incredible efficiency, especially in the defensive end. The California native doesn’t need to be the first scoring option, but he merges well with Ja Morant and Tyus Jones in the Memphis Grizzlies’ perimeter. The Grizzlies are holding firm in the 8th seed of the Western Conference with the Pelicans, the Blazers and the Kings being 3.5 games behind.
Melton is helping the ‘stars’ of Memphis to thrive with the team scoring +8.2 points when he is on the floor, being on the 95th percentile among all NBA players, per Cleaning the Glass. Melton showed that he can become an efficient “catch and shoot” option, when playing with a ball-dominant guard like Ja Morant or Tyus Jones. The sophomore guard is hitting “catch and shoot” attempts on a 36.6% clip getting almost 2 (1.6) shots per game.
The Memphis Grizzlies have a better-suited team than the Suns had in the 2018-2019 season for Melton. He is not the most athletic or the player with the most spectacular highlights in his team, but he can do many things well.
This season, he averaged 3.1 more points than his rookie season (8.1 per contest) shooting 41% from the field (slightly better than last year’s 39%) and 31% from the three-point line. The young guard showed improvement in his offensive game this season, despite playing in a more competitive environment than Phoenix.
A Possible Future Scenario
The 6’2” guard with the 6’8” wingspan can guard multiple positions on the court and put the clamps on any perimeter player of his opponents. Melton had his best game this season against Sacramento on the 20th of February. The sophomore finished the contest with a career-high 24 points getting 9 in the last 23 seconds of the game.
This game could be Melton’s future offensive game, in which he will aggressively pursue contact in the paint, while being capable of hitting the open-three, when the occasion will arise. In the right system, Melton is quite valuable for his team, with the USC product starring in the top 5 in the net rating of any Grizzly duo with 200 minutes or more on four occasions.
Furthermore, he has impressive per 36 stats getting 15 points, almost 7 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game. The question that pops up is what can Melton be in the future? With a super-talented guard like Morant on his side, the sophomore can easily become a “Jrue Holiday type” of player, if he amps up his shooting percentages from the field and the three-point line. Even if he never touches his ceiling, the California native is capable of being a high-energy defensive player coming from the bench.
Melton is also only signed through the end of this season. Whenever the next season starts, in what is expected to be a weak free agency market he’ll be a restricted free agent. That does mean Memphis can match any offer sheet he finds, but they’ll need to weigh if he is a good fit going forward as much his success this year.