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De’Anthony Melton: The Memphis Man of Mystery

What does the future hold for Mr. Do Something

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Memphis Grizzlies v Utah Jazz - Game Five Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

One of the pillars of reformed theology is the belief in predestination. Within this school of thought, everyone and everything that happens is predestined before creation. This eliminates the option of a human being having their own free will. If theology is not your cup of tea, refer to Disney+’s new series Loki.

The Time Variance Authority (TVA) is in charge of what is known as the “sacred timeline.” It is one timeline that is more or less predestined or predetermined. Anyone that alters that timeline is arrested by the TVA for violation of the order of events. Loki mentions in episode one that he did things on his own free will while the TVA agent laughs it off.

There is no such thing as the TVA. Reformed theology is extremely controversial. But everyone agrees that there are seemingly at times basketball gods that have a hand in what happens in the NBA. It’s as if those basketball gods deemed it destiny for De’Anthony Melton to be a Memphis Grizzly.

2018 NBA Draft Combine - Day 1 Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

While De’Anthony Melton was wrapping up his senior season at Crespi High School in California, the Memphis Grizzlies acquired a second round pick from the Miami Heat in the three team trade that brought Memphis Chris Andersen, P.J. Hairston and two more second picks — those later turned into Jarred Vanderbilt and Talen Horton-Tucker. (2016)

That Miami second round pick was then traded to the Houston Rockets for, none other than Dillon Brooks. (2017)

On June 21, 2018, the Houston Rockets used that Miami second round pick to select De’Anthony Melton 46th overall. A little over a month later, Houston traded Melton with Ryan Anderson to the Phoenix Suns for Marquese Chriss and Brandon Knight.

Melton played roughly 20 minutes per game in 50 games his rookie season in Phoenix before being traded in the offseason as the sweetener in a salary dump. Memphis took on the contract of Josh Jackson, Melton and 2020 & 2021 second round picks in exchange for Jevon Carter and Kyle Korver.

It has worked out nicely for both Melton and Memphis so far.

If stats were the only basis for contractual decision making, De’Anthony would not only be a top steals man in the NBA, but also in the finance world. He parlayed 7.6 points per game on 29% shooting from deep as a (maybe) 6’2 guard with a -5 overall net rating into a 4 year $35 million dollar contract. Thank goodness for Zach Kleiman looking beyond the box scores.

De’Anthony’s true on/off differential in the 2019-20 season was a +10.4 which was in the 94th percentile in the entire NBA. He made an impact well beyond the box score, and that is why he was a Twitter darling for the analytic people. He was above league average points per 100 possessions, eFG%, turnover %, offensive rebounding %, free throw rate, defensive pts per 100, defensive eFG and defensive turnover %. All those things earned him the nickname Mr. Do Something and his contract extension.

Memphis Grizzlies v Utah Jazz - Game Five Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

The 2020-21 Come Up

A lot of pressure can be taken off an athlete once they gain some type of long-term financial security. This, combined with hours of hard work, led to a breakout season for the third year combo guard out of USC. Although he controversially maintained a minutes load around 20 minutes per game, De’Anthony continued to prove he was a valuable rotation piece in the NBA.

This highlight video from his career night in April incapsulates everything that is tantalizing about Mr. Do Something:

This season, Melton finished by averaging 9.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.2 steals and 41.2% from deep, good for second on the team behind Desmond Bane. In Per 36 numbers, Melton was the leading assist man and rebounder amongst Dillon Brooks, Grayson Allen and Desmond Bane. Throughout the season he spent 86% of his time at the two, which was the highest % at the two spot, but second in total minutes behind Grayson Allen. He spent the rest of his time as a back up point guard. The “Melton-at-the-point” experiment, offensively was a tragedy.

He was -7.7 in roughly 140 minutes played, good for the 17th percentile. His eFG was 50% (14th percentile) and his points per 100 possessions was 102.2 (8th percentile). He earned his nickname, however, because on nights he did not have it offensively, he still made an impact. During his time at the point, he was in the 92nd percentile in opponents eFG%, holding them to 50.6%. His opponents points per 100 was 109.8 (79th percentile) and he turned is opponent over at a 15.6% rate good for the 86th percentile.

For the money he is being paid, looking at his Per 36 numbers this year, Zach Kleiman is the true heist artist here.

16.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 2.1 steals (4th best in the NBA), 1 block on 41.2% shooting from 3.

Here are where those numbers rank amongst players that made less than 10 starts this season:

Points (17th), Assists (13th), Rebounds (23rd), Steals (3rd), Blocks (7th), 3P% (

Going even deeper, here is where he ranks amongst guards with less than 10 starts:

Points (10th), Rebounds (6th), Blocks (2nd)

Is it hyperbole to state that De’Anthony Melton is a top 10 guard off the bench in the NBA?

Areas to Improve

Memphis Grizzlies v Utah Jazz - Game Five Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

The Memphis Grizzlies were a team that loved the floater this season with 6 players taking at least a fourth of their attempts in the floater zone. De’Anthony Melton only took 15.5% of his attempts in that range it was most likely due to his team worst 28.6% shooting from that range. He shot 61% at the rim, 56% from mid range (best among guards on the team) and 41% from deep. It is a glaring hole in his game offensively.

He needs to continue to hone his three point stroke as he fell off drastically in the month of May, shooting 30.8% — down from 44.4% in April and 48.4% in March. His ending % may not be repeatable for a career, but shooting around 38% for a season is, which is well above his 2019-20 tick of 28.6%.

His decision making on ball at times struggled, so maybe a summer league stint as a point guard would be beneficial for Melton as well, unless the coaching staff uses all the data they accumulated to determine he should not do that for long stretches, if at all.

The Curious Case

De’Anthony Melton proved to be as good of a value contract in the NBA as anyone, constantly stuffing the stat sheet beyond points scored. Of the final 8 teams remaining in the NBA playoffs this season, not a single team possesses a player off the bench that averages 15 points, 5 rebounds 4 assists, let alone 2 steals per 36 minutes. Beyond the bench, the players putting up these types of numbers are the stars — with the caveat that they blow by these numbers.

Now Melton is not a star in the league, but he is a bona fide rotation player that deserves more than 20 minutes per night. Does the front office and/or coaching staff believe that the 20 minute cap is how you get the most effectiveness out of Melton? Did the number of guards that were producing and earning playing time hinder Melton from having an even bigger season? With these kinds of numbers, why did Melton only start one game?

It was easily a career year for Melton that could have been even better. What is he going forward though? Is his tradeable contract used to eliminate depth and upgrade on the wing? Is he considered a core piece for a front office that values analytics? The kid can flat out hoop and hopefully gets upward of 25 minutes per next season as an impactful rotation player.

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