Last year, between the NBA’s shutdown from the season suspension and the NBA bubble, I profiled the swing skill of a number of young players for the Memphis Grizzlies. For De’Anthony Melton, it all came down to his outside shot.
Melton’s impact was already resounding, even without a jump shot. His defensive prowess and his secondary playmaking jumped off the page and immediately made the Grizzlies better. You’d have a difficult time finding a killer Grizzlies lineup that didn’t include Melton, as the team was 10.4 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor — per Cleaning the Glass.
When it came to assessing his contractual value this offseason, and evaluating his role on this team, the question with Melton was always the jumper. It can get as negative as finding his value if he’s a 6’2” guard that’s a subpar shooter; but as positive as wondering his upside if the jumper hit.
Through 12 games, Melton is shooting 44.2% from 3, while firing at a higher volume — 3.6 attempts per game and a 3-point rate of .430. All those marks outpace any of his career highs.
It’s certainly an encouraging mark, as he’d be another floor-spacer and secondary playmaker that Ja Morant and Tyus Jones lean on. However, what’s caught my eye the most is how well he’s shooting off the dribble.
On pull-up attempts this season (23 total), Melton’s shooting 47.8% from the field, while connecting on 5 of his 10 pull-up 3’s. In comparison, he only shot 27.4% (17.5% from 3) on pull-up shots last season, and 19.1% (10% from 3) his rookie year.
That’s a LEAP.
It’s a noticeable improvement in his game, and Coach Taylor Jenkins said it’s been a conversation between the two of them dating back to the end of last season. Fast forward to this season, and you’re noticing a new comfort level for Melton’s live-dribble creation.
It’s the kind of comfort level and improvement that can change the trajectory for his career...for the better.
De’Anthony Melton adding a pull-up to his bag makes him a live-dribble threat at all 3 levels — driver, playmaker, and shooter.
A crucial element of last playoffs’ breakouts was the mid-range pull-up. It’s a trick that allows perimeter players to capitalize on switches and drop coverage. Granted, Melton isn’t on the same level as someone like Jamal Murray, Donovan Mitchell, or CJ McCollum. However, Melton’s comfort level attacking there has been a promising aspect of his game this season.
In this particular set, Melton attacks off the Xavier Tillman screen with good poise and patience downhill. Once he notices Danny Green behind from the pick, he takes advantage of Dwight Howard in drop coverage and rises for the mid-range jumper. It’s going to be crucial for him to continuing adding this to his skillset, as the Grizzlies system predicates on getting downhill and finding shots around the rim and from 3.
Melton has grown more comfortable using the pull-up to take advantage of mismatches. Whenever a team is in the middle of a switch, or a big man is playing the drive, he has no problem firing off the dribble.
In the first clip against Houston, there’s a miscommunication between Wood and House on the screen. So when House rotates over to Gorgui Dieng, Melton uses the window of opportunity to fire an open 3 in rhythm. Against Harrell and Aldridge, they are both playing the drive, as the scouting report probably indicates that Melton isn’t much of a pull-up threat. So when given the room, he used the space to get his jumper off.
And he flashed even more of that pull-up upside in this ridiculous deep 3 against Malcolm Brogdon.
Melton’s able to get this shot off, because of his massive wingspan (6’8”) and also the mechanics on his jumper. The wingspan surely helps, but he has good placement with the ball, and he also has nice elevation on his jump shot. His physical tools and the base of his jumper should bode well for him, as he continues to grow as a live-dribble shooter.
Tracking the sustainability of this trend is going to be one of the more interesting storylines of the season. It’s definitely a “wait and see” situation, but the early returns are promising. It could also say a lot for his potential down the road.
A player comparison that’s thrown out there for Melton a lot is Marcus Smart, who exploded as an “elite role player” and key glue guy for the Boston Celtics once he added an outside shot off the dribble (40% on pull-up 3’s last season). If Melton’s live-dribble shooting is sustainable, even in the 33-40 percent range, he can reach that same level of impact.
And if he does, his extension looks like an absolute heist for the Memphis Grizzlies. It’ll also bring questions over his future role in the league. If he’s a live-dribble shooting threat, multi-positional defender, and a good secondary playmaker, he’s a starting shooting guard in this league. He could be a guy the Grizzlies want starting next to Ja Morant in crucial situations.
De’Anthony Melton continues to impact the game with doing the little things on the court, and this area of his game would be a game-changer for him and the Memphis Grizzlies.
Stats and clips found on nba.com/stats.