Ready or not, another season of 76ers basketball is right around the corner. With that being said, it is once again time for preseason player profiles at Liberty Ballers.
We’ve already previewed several players, looking forward to how they could impact the team in the 2023-24 season.
Contract status: Final year of four-year, $34.6 million extension; $8.0 million for 2023-24; UFA in 2024
De’Anthony Melton is on the final year of his four-year, $34.6 million contract extension that he signed with the Memphis Grizziles. After this season, he’ll be up for a huge pay raise that may be nearly double what he’s currently earning.
Melton saw extended success with the Sixers, achieving new career-highs in playing time and steals per game. He even leap-frogged backcourt mate Tyrese Maxey briefly in the regular season, providing a 3-and-D role alongside James Harden. Now, Melton might be in his for biggest year yet, with James Harden’s uncertainty overshadowing the entire team.
Season outlook: Assuming Harden isn’t with the Sixers (physically and/or mentally), most project Melton as the backcourt starter next to Maxey. As we saw last year, Melton is a nice complement to either Maxey or Harden, providing perimeter shooting and excellent defense for his 6-foot-2 frame. On paper, it’s a mostly good fit for the starting group.
However, the Sixers will desperately miss Harden’s (engaged) playmaking, and that’s simply a department both Maxey and Melton won’t be able to republicate. This is where things can get problematic for this starting group, and while Melton can be a secondary playmaker, asking him to be anything beyond that is wishful thinking.
The Sixers will also lean heavily on Melton to take most defensive assignments. P.J. Tucker is still around, but he isn’t getting any younger, and has already shown that he can’t quite keep up with quicker perimeter talent. Outside of Patrick Beverley and possibly Jaden Springer, the Sixers simply don’t have many defensive-minded wings.
Melton, also known as ‘Mr.Do Something’, is capable of providing a little bit of everything on both ends. Now, more than ever, the team will ask him to take on his biggest role yet. Factor in what will likely be the biggest contract of his career possibly on the horizon, and you should expect increased production across the board.
De’Anthony Melton doing some De’Anthony Melton things at a recent Rico Hines run— Sean Barnard (@Sean_Barnard1) September 8, 2023
His instincts and quick hands are truly one of the most disruptive tools in the NBA. He has never averaged under 1.2 steals per game in the career pic.twitter.com/METuFWjBOJ
While Melton has solidified himself as an elite role player, the Sixers would be wise not to over-extend what he can do over long periods of time. There will be nights where he’ll be guarding the other team’s best player for over 30 minutes, while being asked to be the third or fourth scoring option. Not a knock against Melton, but this can wear down anyone, no matter how good they are. Lean on Melton, but Nick Nurse should also pivot to Beverley or Springer as needed.