De’Anthony Melton has emerged as the biggest surprise player for this young Memphis Grizzlies.
It’s no secret that the Grizzlies saw something in him, as they took a flier on Josh Jackson in order to acquire Melton. However, his impact this season came out of nowhere. As friend of GBB, 92.9 producer Connor Dunning puts it: De’Anthony Melton is the ideal glue guy.
He started out the season on the injury mend and out of the rotation, but once playing time opened up, he took advantage of the opportunity and ignited the Grizzlies’ hot 3-month stretch. Since Melton entered the rotation, the Grizzlies went 27-20, winning at the pace of a 47-win team — compared to a 23-win pace prior to December 1st.
As he enters free agency this summer, the big question revolving around Melton is his ceiling. Can he become a long-term NBA starter?
The metrics and eye-test back it up. He’s called “Mr. Do Something” for a reason. He has a knack for making things happen on the court, whether it’s the deflection and steal, leaking out in transition for a fastbreak layup, or making the right assist to the open shooter or cutter. How he can become a long-term NBA starter is tied to his consistency shooting the 3-ball.
If he can find a consistent groove from outside, he could become a long-term starting shooting guard, wherever he may go.
De’Anthony Melton is nowhere close to a shooting liability. Most of the times, if he’s left open, he’ll make opponents pay. However, given his 3-point percentage and low volume, it’s not necessarily starter-level yet. This season, he’s shot 31.6% from deep on 2.3 attempts per game. In addition, he has a low 3-point rate, as 33.1% of his shot attempts come from downtown.
Though his percentages and volume don’t look great on paper, he possesses upside as a great floor-spacer. His pull-up 3-point percentage hurts his overall numbers (17.6%), but he shoots 36.6% (1.6 attempts per game) on catch-and-shoot 3’s. He also shoots a blistering 46% on corner triples, per Cleaning the Glass.
The shooting upside is there. And, the catch-and-shoot and corner 3-point numbers are promising, especially given his role. He’s not going to be asked to be the primary initiator of an offense; in Memphis, that job belongs to Ja Morant, Tyus Jones, and (probably) Justise Winslow. If he can find more opportunities to spot up from 3, his numbers will rise across the board, and his production will match that of a starting shooting guard.
Obviously, with Melton’s age, there is ample room for growth. We’ve also seen what could happen when comparable players become potent 3-point players.
The most common comparison for Melton is Avery Bradley — a smaller 2-guard that thrives as a defensive stopper, secondary playmaker, and catch-and-shoot 3-point shooter. Bradley’s third season is most comparable to Melton’s, when looking at the shooting numbers:
The following season, Bradley blossomed into a lethal shooting threat, as he shot 39.5% from 3 on 3.3 attempts per game, while also knocking down 41.3% of his catch-and-shoot 3’s and 48% of his non-corner 3’s — per Cleaning the Glass. If Melton could make that sort of jump next season, his game will be on a new level.
Marcus Smart is another comparison that saw upticks in his shooting numbers. Prior to the 2018-19 season, Smart never cracked 34% from downtown. In that season though, Smart found his groove from downtown, as he shot 36.4% from 3 and 38.7% on catch-and-shoot triples.
Bradley and Smart are prime examples of what happens when undersized, defensive-minded shooting guards become good volume 3-point starters. They become starters and key cogs to really good playoff teams. Melton has the tools to make a similar leap.
De’Anthony Melton is legit, and many outside the Memphis bubble recognize it too.
He’s been featured in the Ringer numerous times. More notably, DJ Foster categorized him as one of the five breakthrough candidates — or as he dubbed them, “The Next Siakams” — prior to the start of the season. Jonathan Tjarks turned to Melton and Brandon Clarke as the sleepers that helped reboot the Grizzlies.
There’s even SB Nation sites of other NBA teams writing 4,000-word columns about how they want him on a 4-year, $50M contract.
There’s no doubt that he should experience a good, long NBA career. He has the elements though to take his game to the next level and become a legit starting shooting guard on a really good playoff team. The team is awesome when he steps on the floor. He’s an elite defender that can cover multiple positions. At just 21, he’s also proven that he can be a reliable secondary playmaker. Though his shooting numbers are subject to be used against him, if you dig deeper, he has legitimate upside as a 3-point weapon.
Once that upside is fulfilled, De’Anthony Melton will be an impact starter for years to come.
Stats found on basketball-reference and NBA.com