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De’Anthony Melton the spark plug

De’Anthony Melton has been on an absolute heater, earning his badge as a microwave scorer.

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Brooklyn Nets v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

De’Anthony Melton has always provided a spark for this Memphis Grizzlies team, leading to the installation of his “Mr. Do Something” moniker. He earned that with how his activity led to good things for the Grizzlies — deflections, steals, blocks, dunks, you name it.

While that’s not traditionally way of being a spark plug off the bench, Melton is now adding that element to his game. He’s becoming more of a lethal scorer off the bench, providing the Grizzlies with an emphatic perimeter punch off the bench.

“That’s always been me,” Melton said of his role. “Coming out with straight energy no matter what my role is. Given this team, I think my role was to give the spark plug off the bench for this roster.”

We’ve seen this microwave scoring ad nauseam over the past several weeks, as Melton has scorched the nets (both the actual nets from the baskets, and that team out in Brooklyn). Over the past two weeks (6 games, prior to last night’s game), Melton has averaged 17.5 points off the bench — while shooting 56.1% from the field and 59.1% from 3, and hoisting 7.3 attempts per game. His 26 three’s in that span is up there with Mike Miller for most 3’s made over the course of 6 games.

However, this isn’t even a 2-week surge. He’s been building up to this over the past 2 months. After a cold January, he’s averaging 12 points a game on 44% shooting from the field and 44.9% from 3 (5.4 attempts per game).

This surge from Melton has been paramount for the team’s bench production, as they’ve continued to be one of the best second units in the league. And while he’s still adding value in the elements of his “do something” skillset, his scoring has taken a brighter spotlight over the past few weeks.

Melton’s outside shooting has shined the brightest in that. The percentages are nice, but the confidence and the manner in which he’s taken them have been encouraging. It’s been a welcome sight, as the Grizzlies have been needing more firepower from beyond the arc.

That’s a testament to the work that he’s put in to become a reliable knockdown shooter over the past few seasons. Taylor Jenkins credits assistant coach Scoonie Penn on Melton’s development as an outside shooter.

“He’s got really sound mechanics, but then on top of that, he just works. He just stays the course in terms of just being repetitive in his shot, the work that he does,” Jenkins said. “They’re just consistent in just being really good at catch-and-shoot, moving off the ball, shooting off the dribble some too.”

And as the percentages and the volume rise, the confidence is evident. The thing that catches my eye is the quickness of his release. This season specifically, Melton has been letting more 3s fly quite rapidly — almost like his catch and fire is all in one motion — regardless of who's around him. It’s been a cool development to see unfold. When he’s on and he launches with confidence, it’s slick filthy.

“I understand the better shooter you are — the more and stronger the close outs are going to be — the quicker they are,” Melton said. “It’s understanding getting to my shot early and, given my wingspan I have a high release, so I just shoot with confidence and know a lot of people can’t really block it unless they jump or are already there.”

De’Anthony Melton’s hot streak couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.

The narrative around the Grizzlies’ potential struggles in a playoff situation revolve around their bottom-10 halfcourt offense and perimeter shooting — though Indy Cornrows’ Caitlin Cooper on last week’s episode of “The Long View” and ESPN’s Zach Lowe in his recent 10 Things column mentioned that the Grizzlies could continue to feast in transition in the postseason (that’d be great!). Having more reliable 3-point weapons surely helps the team’s halfcourt offense.

In turn, the Grizzlies should open up the floor a lot more. They rely on getting downhill and finding shots either in the paint, or taking advantage of a collapsing defense to get kickouts for 3’s. The more players that can keep defenses honest on both fronts, the more successfully the system can operate in the postseason.

With Melton in the fold as a spark plug scorer off the bench, it presents the Grizzlies with more avenues towards generating momentum in the postseason. Transition opportunities, thunderous throw-downs, and emphatic blocks are good ways to do so, but a quick heater from downtown is a way to do so as well. I mean, the energy in FedExForum Saturday night when Melton hit four 3-pointers in less than 2 minutes was electric. Imagine that in a postseason setting!

It should also solidify him in that playoff rotation as well. To be honest, prior to February, his standing in that rotation was getting murkier by the game. They were going with Ja Morant and Tyus Jones a lot. Ziaire Williams was finding his groove, and he provides more size on the wing. There were more questions than answers in that topic.

We have that answer.

Now, he’s someone that has to play in the postseason. His ability to create transition opportunities, hound guard defenders, rebound, and space the floor is important in the Grizzlies’ system this postseason. And when someone like Desmond Bane needs a breather, they can slot in De’Anthony Melton to serve as the team’s primary sniper.

The postseason is going to be a good test for his outside shooting. He’s been relatively streaky here and there, suffering offensive slumps towards the end of last season and in the 2020 bubble. The sustainability of his shooting will be pivotal in the bench’s postseason production.

Memphis Grizzlies v Indiana Pacers Photo by A.J. Mast/NBAE via Getty Images

To expand the context of De’Anthony Melton’s transformation into a spark plug scorer, the Grizzlies haven’t experienced a perimeter pop like this in quite some time. Among Grizzly players that started fewer than 15 games, he’s the first perimeter player to average double-digit points off the bench since fellow USC Trojan OJ Mayo in the 2011-12 season. In addition, he’s only 15 three’s away from passing Troy Daniels (138) for most 3’s made from a Grizzly reserve (fewer than 15 starts), per Stathead.

As the Memphis Grizzlies have sought after a perimeter scorer off the bench, De’Anthony Melton has stepped into that role well. The Grizzlies this season are 21-4 when Melton scores 10+ points off the bench, compared to just 18-11 in the games he played and didn’t score double digits off the bench. His value beyond scoring — the “do something” areas — added to that makes this team lethal.

“When he can play like that, it’s a huge spark for us,” Taylor Jenkins said after Melton’s standout performance against the Brooklyn Nets last Wednesday.

De’Anthony Melton continues to round out his game and find ways to impact winning for this Memphis Grizzlies squad. His 3-point shooting has been at the forefront, and that surge couldn’t come at a better time than right now. Here soon, the sustainability of his spark will be put to the test.

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