With just seconds left before the Sixers were due to make a selection with the 23rd pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, they did what many had speculated they would do all along. Philadelphia traded the selection, as well as veteran wing Danny Green, to the Memphis Grizzlies for guard De’Anthony Melton.
Depending on where you stand on the 24-year-old combo guard, the trade is a home run for Philadelphia. Green was, by all accounts, hopeful he could return from knee injuries suffered in the Sixers’ Game 6 loss to the Heat by the middle of the season. But, the realistic expectation — especially for a player in his 30s — was that Green would miss most, if not all, of next season.
An injured player (or inactive salary on a cap sheet) figured to complicate matters for Philadelphia’s offseason plans. With a would-be trade asset no longer as valuable, the Sixers’ flexibility was ostensibly limited. With Green’s money not guaranteed, the likeliest scenario would’ve logically been to waive the veteran wing.
But, Memphis liked what it saw remaining on the board when the Sixers’ selection came around enough to part with the young Melton.
The University of Southern California alum played a career-high 22.7 minutes per game for the Grizzlies this past season. But, Memphis’ guard depth was significant. Ja Morant is the unquestioned face of the franchise. Desmond Bane took an enormous step this season. Tyus Jones is one of the most stable backup point guards in the NBA. And he makes approximately half a million less than Melton does.
So, logic would say that there was no starting spot for Melton. Jones is slightly more cost-effective as part of the second unit. Perhaps Memphis saw an opportunity to snatch a guy they really liked with the 23rd pick and take care of a decision they’d likely have to make sooner rather than later anyway.
The immediate reflection is quite promising:
De’Anthony Melton ranked in the top 5 percentile for combo guards in block% and steal%.— Austin Krell (@NBAKrell) June 24, 2022
Shot 37.4% from 3 on 8.1 attempts per 36.
There is a caveat to those statistics, which were retrieved from Cleaning the Glass, that should be mentioned. Those percentile rankings were relative to other combo guards. Compared to other positions, guards are inherently disadvantaged when it comes to blocking shots. So, perhaps Melton is an elite shot-blocker for a guard. Or, maybe he’s just one of the best at something that others he’s grouped with are generally not very good at. Steal percentage, however, is a bit more of a fool-proof barometer. Guards can very well be amongst the best in the league at picking up steals, regardless of position. So, that’s quite promising.
The NBA has Melton listed as 6-foot-2. According to The Stepien, he has a 6-foot-8 wingspan. That translates to a guard who leverages his athleticism and reach quite well despite having some vertical limitations. In other words, it’s reasonable to buy that he’s legitimately a very good defensive guard.
Perhaps more important to the Sixers is the extrapolated shooting volume. If Melton plays closer to 36 minutes per game than he does to 20 minutes per game, a diet of 8 three-point attempts is right in the wheelhouse of what you want out of a backcourt mate to the more ball-dominant James Harden and Tyrese Maxey. Only time will tell if the efficiency lasts. If it does, this trade might approach robbery territory for Philadelphia.
In terms of how the money works, Melton’s incoming salary is $8,250,000. Different people will have different cap sheets for the Sixers. Mine included Green’s $10,000,000 before the trade under the assumption that a trade would be made. Because of that and the 23rd pick (slotted $2,553,960 first-year salary), I recorded a net reduction in salary of $4,303,960. Those who did not figure Green’s $10,000,000 into their cap sheets (under the assumption he would be waived rather than traded) before the trade will compute a net increase in salary.
The Sixers now sit at $151,689,665 in salary. Reports suggest that the Sixers are not currently inclined to move earth and heaven to try to get access to the Non-taxpayer Mid-Level exception. But maybe there is a player at that salary level that they like enough to seriously pursue. If so, this trade marks the beginning of further moves to come.