Melton Can Help Memphis Build On Last Season’s Success


The NBA season is starting up, and we’ve gotten a taste of each team during the preseason. Some teams are poised to take leaps, while others still have things to figure out. In Memphis, the Grizzlies are prepared to build on their success from last season.

After going 3-1 in the preseason, some fans believe the team will be better than many expect. Ja Morant looked like an all-star. Dillon Brooks seems to have taken a step in the right direction. Jonas Valanciunas and Kyle Anderson both looked phenomenal. The biggest question mark is the starting two guard spot.

One candidate to start is De’Anthony Melton. “Mr. Do Something” had a strong campaign for Memphis last year, and was the catalyst for their mid-season run. Melton had a difficult bubble, particularly due to the Tyus Jones injury. His point-guard play is still a work in progress, and it was exposed in Orlando. Despite his bubble struggles, he remains a key piece to the team going forward, and was rewarded with a four-year, $35 million dollar contract.

Melton’s potential is sky-high. He has the potential to be an elite role player for the Grizzlies. His defense alone guarantees him minutes, and an improving offensive game helps his role become more defined. As Melton gears up for his third NBA season, here are some players he can study to help elevate his game.

Point Guard Play

Rajon Rondo

Melton’s biggest weakness is his inability to be the primary ballhandler. He likely won’t ever be a strong scorer with the ball in his hands. Improving as a second-unit leader would go a long way in solidifying his role, and improving the team. Rajon Rondo provides an excellent blueprint for Melton to study.

Throughout his career, Rondo has been a two-way menace, hounding opposing guards on defense while leading a near-unstoppable offense. He’s never been a huge scoring threat, but his leadership, IQ and passing ability have always elevated the players around him. Rondo also has thrived in a variety of schemes and scenarios, meaning there’s plenty for Melton to learn from.

Arguably the most important skill for Melton to analyze is the control Rondo maintains in his game. At times, Melton looks like a deer in headlights when tasked with being the lead guard. Since coming to Memphis, Melton has only spent 20% of his minutes at point guard (95% in Phoenix). Slowing the game down and understanding how to effectively play the position are the main areas Melton should look to improve upon.

Melton will never be tasked with the role Rondo has played most of his career, but could drastically alter his trajectory by learning a bit from the two-time champion.

Andre Miller

Another pass-first style point guard, Andre Miller spent majority of his career playing point guard alongside some top-tier players. His prime was spent playing with Carmelo Anthony, Andre Iguodala and Brandon Roy. He led the league in assists in his third year. He is the only player in NBA history to have at least 16,000 career points, 8,000 assists and 1,500 steals without making an NBA All-Star Game.

Miller wasn’t the defender Rondo was, nor was he a better scorer (despite his 50-point game), but he thrived in a variety of styles and situations like Rondo did. Melton’s main issues as point guard stem from general nervousness and pacing. Miller provides an excellent example of how to maintain the pace, set up teammates and still be an effective scorer when needed.

Melton, again, should pay attention to Miller’s tempo and overall control of the offense. Miller was, at one point, a highly coveted point guard due to his playstyle. He was low-maintenance, high-output. Melton has a similar personality, and should be stuffing stat sheets for years to come.


Marcus Smart

A quick look at Marcus Smart’s shooting numbers may raise the question, “why should De’Anthony Melton study a 32% career shooter?” The simple answer is improvement. Marcus Smart came into the league as the sixth overall pick that couldn’t shoot. His defense and intensity were (and still are) his trademarks. Smart, like Melton, constantly finds ways to impact the game on both ends. His commitment to winning is undeniable, and his improvement as a shooter shows that.

Smart could really serve as a role model for Melton in every aspect. but slotting him as part of shooting improvement felt like a good fit. Smart’s shooting is a very polarizing subject. Despite his improvement, some fans still complain. At times, he gets a bit overconfident and takes shots even Dillon Brooks would be ashamed of. Other times, he gets hot and sets Celtics records. Even with that “inconsistency”, he’s trending in the right direction. Smart shot 35% on 6.6 attempts last season.

Melton will likely never reach Smart’s attempt numbers, but matching his percentages would be a great addition to his game.

Tyreke Evans

Not known for shooting, Evans’ inclusion may enact a similar response as Smart. Again, the reason he’s here is because of improvement. Evans, like Smart, made a dramatic improvement to his shooting numbers during his career. During his first five seasons, Evans shot just 27% from deep. In his last five seasons, he shot 36%. That’s an incredible turnaround. Evans had his best shooting season in his lone run with the Grizzlies in 2017-18, shooting 40% on 5.5 attempts per game.

During the back half of his career, Evans served as a secondary ball handler, similar to Melton. His role change helped him thrive as a shooter. Evans went from a primary option in Sacramento to a secondary and tertiary option in New Orleans, Memphis and Indiana. His year in Memphis was arguably the best of his career. Part of what made him so good in those roles was his improvement as a shooter. That one change opened up the floor for him and his teammates.

As the Grizzlies continue to progress, individual improvements like these will serve them well. If Melton can become the same-caliber shooter Evans did, he has a chance to become one of the best role players in the league.


Tony Allen

It’s impossible to watch De’Anthony Melton play and not think about Tony Allen. There are shades of the Grindfather all over his game. Allen himself praised Melton last year, calling him a “GnG warrior”. Melton joined Allen as the only Grizzlies to post 900+ minutes, 1.5 BLK% and a 3 STL% last year. Allen accomplished the feat four times during his career – Melton has already done it twice.

As the video above details, one of Allen’s greatest tools was his stance. He utilized a more vertical stance that led to a lot of steals. Melton has already displayed a similar knack in these situations, as he comes up with a lot of deflections and steals from behind. Allen made a living predicting the “predictable” moments in basketball, which is a testament to his IQ and work ethic.

Tony Allen might be the greatest perimeter defender in NBA history, and is easily the best for Melton to study. TA’s intensity, fundamentals and overall impact would be welcomed on the new-look Grizzlies, and Melton presents the best candidate to duplicate them. He already has the natural talent and body type for it. Studying TA’s game would only tap in to what’s already there.

Mo Cheeks

An old-school pick, Mo Cheeks was an exceptional defender during a golden era of perimeter talent. Cheeks made a Hall-of-Fame career as a glue guy for the dominant Sixers teams of the 1980s. Cheeks emerged as the Sixers’ starter during his rookie season and held that role during his tenure there. During his career, he went head-to-head with some of the greatest talents to ever play the game, and often times kept them in check. His 2.1 steals per game average is tenth highest in NBA history.

A quick scroll through the thread above provides a deeper look into Cheeks’ career. Similar to Smart, Cheeks could provide an all-around blueprint for Melton, but defense was his main skill. Like Allen, Cheeks was a smart, crafty defender who downright filthy on that end. His lockdown defense led to a lot of fast break opportunities for his teams. It also allowed him to set up his superstar teammates with easy buckets, keeping everyone happy.

Melton could easily replicate Cheeks’ playstyle. By using his defense to get the Grizzlies quick scores, he could help them form the high-tempo offense they’ve been building towards. He can rack up assists in transition, while giving his budding star teammates easy buckets.

Impact on Winning

Dennis Johnson

One of the most underrated players in NBA history, Dennis Johnson’s career was full of winning, and that’s no coincidence. DJ won three NBA titles and a Finals MVP, was a five-time All-Star, and made nine All-Defensive teams. During his early years with Seattle and Phoenix, DJ was a top option on successful teams. However, it’s his Boston years that Melton can learn from.

In 1983, the Celtics added Johnson to their team with one goal in mind – to slow down star guards. The addition was initially aimed at Andrew Toney and the Sixers, but Johnson rose to prominence early for his work against Magic Johnson. While his offensive game shifted, his defense became a key factor for the Larry Bird-era Celtics. Johnson, now surrounded by elite offensive talent, took a backseat as a scorer, and became more of a traditional point guard on offense. He would go on to win two of his three championships with the team.

Johnson essentially took on the same role Melton plays, providing an easy blueprint for Melton to study. The Grizzlies haven’t reached their peak yet, but when they do, Melton will likely be a part of it. He can learn now how to best impact the team’s game by studying one of the game’s greatest winners.

Ron Harper

Another guy who took on a serious role change, Ron Harper won five championships as a defensive stopper. In 1994, Harper signed with the Chicago Bulls, forming a menacing defensive trio with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Harper’s role went from 20-point-per-game scorer to secondary ball-handler. He maintained a starting spot, but his minutes and numbers dropped significantly from his previous teams. However, he enjoyed the best postseason success of his career, finally making it past the first round of the playoffs.

Harper won three championships with Chicago, then signed with the upstart Lakers in 2000 and won two more. He had some important moments for each team. Harper enjoyed the most success of his career as a specialist, providing tough defense and playmaking alongside two of the best duos in history. For Melton, learning how to thrive in these roles is very important, especially as Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. establish themselves as an elite duo. Melton could potentially lock up a long-term spot in Memphis with a strong showing this year.

Harper’s Bull and Laker stints present a very realistic trajectory for Melton in Memphis. Become a defensive expert, hone your offense to fit the team, and thrive.

Follow us on Twitter @Grizz_Lead for the latest Grizzlies news and insight. 

About Richmond Bailey Caldwell

Die-hard Grizzlies fan since 2009. Aspiring basketball writer and coach. University of Georgia sport management alum. Perennial first team all-defense selection.

Recommended for you

Powered by