De’Anthony Melton is the epitome of the 76ers.
The backup guard is strong, athletic and excels in the regular season, just like Philadelphia’s NBA franchise. However, the fifth-year veteran has been known to struggle in the postseason.
Like the Sixers, who last got out of the second round in 2001, Melton is determined to change his playoff history.
The 24-year-old is poised to make a postseason breakthrough. He is also hungry to show what he can do as a Sixer.
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“That’s how I feel 100 percent,” said Melton, whom the Sixers acquired via a draft night trade from the Memphis Grizzlies. “I know that my entire career has been a small market, under the radar.
“But coming into an organization like this, I knew what I was getting into.”
Melton, who played for the Grizzlies (2019-22) and Phoenix Suns (2018-19), always wanted to help a big-market team like the Sixers win an NBA championship.
“Especially with Daryl [Morey] and doctor [Rivers]I have had good relations with them in the past,” he said. “So, you know, wanting to push them to the limit also played a factor.”
As general manager of the Houston Rockets, Morey selected Melton in the second round of the 2018 draft. However, he sent the guard to the Suns along with Ryan Anderson in exchange for Marquese Chriss and Brandon Knight on August 31, 2018.
Morey, now president of the Sixers, met with Melton in a trade that sent Danny Green and first-round pick David Roddy to Memphis.
A tenacious defender, Melton gives Rivers the option to pair James Harden or Tyrese Maxey with toughness on the perimeter when the other is on the bench. An elite off-the-ball defender, the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder uses his 6-9 wingspan to be disruptive on passing lanes and grab rebounds.
However, Melton has disappeared during the playoffs.
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Two seasons ago, the Grizzlies lost in five games to the Utah Jazz in a first-round playoff series. Melton averaged just 6.2 points while shooting 35% from the field and 30% from three in those five games.
His postseason woes continued last season.
Melton averaged just 2.3 points on 16.7% shooting from the field and 14.3% shooting from 3-point range as Memphis defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves in six games in the first round. He was benched in Games 5 and 6.
Melton was back in the rotation for the second round against the Golden State Warriors. He elevated his game a bit, averaging 7.8 points on 38.3% shooting, including 30% on 3-pointers.
But his postseason struggles made him expendable.
However, Melton bears no ill will toward Memphis general manager Zach Kleiman, who, like him, is an alumnus of the University of Southern California. He also doesn’t see it as the Grizzlies giving him away in exchange for an injured player (Green) and a late first-round pick (Roddy).
“Zach and I have a good relationship so I know he wouldn’t send me into a bad situation,” Melton said. “He wouldn’t do anything that he doesn’t feel is a good situation for his organization and for me. You don’t get that at a lot of GMs. That’s why the care factor was there.
“I could be wrong. I could be right, but that’s how I felt given the situation.”
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Meanwhile, the Sixers have been the equivalent of a polished 1976 Chevy Chevette when it comes to the second round of the playoffs. Sure, it gets a new paint job, new rims and tires. But it’s the same old Chevette with high mileage and engine problems.
But that’s not supposed to be the case this season with the addition of PJ Tucker, Melton, Danuel House Jr. and Montrezl Harrell. The Sixers are looking to win a second-round series for the second time in the franchise’s last 13 appearances, dating back to 1986. They beat the Raptors in seven games in the second round in 2001 en route to losing in the NBA Finals.
“We know what I came here for,” Melton said. “My game, it translates. The only thing that matters to me is winning. I am willing to do whatever it takes to win.
“Everyone here is buying whatever it takes to win. So I understand that that’s what we need right now.”
In his short time in Philly, Melton has become a fan favorite. His coaches and teammates rave about his ability to wreak havoc on defense.
He didn’t shoot the ball well in Monday’s preseason opener against the Brooklyn Nets, scoring five points on 2-for-10 shooting. But he finished with three rebounds, three steals and a block in a 127-108 victory. Two days later, he had 11 points, four rebounds, a steal and a block in a 113-112 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Wells Fargo Center.
Melton doesn’t expect his role to change. It’s the same role the North Hollywood, California native had before playing at Crespi Carmelite High School.
“Whatever happens, I can play minor leagues and I’m going to do the same,” he said. “I can play YMCA. It’s just me doing it all, holding my hands [on] diversions, rebounds, steals. I love doing that kind of thing.”