Mr. Do Something’s Eye Popping Defensive Metrics Helping Sixers

De’Anthony Melton, Sixers

Getty De'Anthony Melton #8 of the Philadelphia 76ers goes to the basket against Scottie Barnes #4 and Precious Achiuwa #5 of the Toronto Raptors during the first half of their basketball game at the Scotiabank Arena on October 26, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

There have been a number of positive takeaways from the new additions to the Philadelphia 76ers to start the season. However, De’Anthony Melton has especially made his presence felt to start the year. Through the opening eight games of the season, Melton ranks first in the NBA with a 4.5% steal percentage. He also leads the league in deflections (33), ranks 2nd in defensive box plus/minus (3.3), and is 2nd in overall steals on the season (16).

Having Melton as the third guard with the Sixers has been especially impactful considering the defensive shortcoming of James Harden and Tyrese Maxey. The former Grizzlies standout has made his presence felt by picking up their defensive slack. Through the opening eight games, he is averaging 9.5 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 2.0 steals per game. Melton is living up to his nickname of “Mr. Do Something” and is making the Sixers better as a result.

Melton’s Role on Sixers

The focus of the offseason was for the Sixers to add two-way players to the rotation. In past years the team has struggled to have guys that can excel on both sides of the floor. Furkan Korkmaz has gotten red-hot from deep at times but struggled to hold up on the defensive end. Matisse Thybulle, who has provided a positive spark in recent games, is known for his defense but continues to struggle on the offensive end.

This has been one of the driving forces behind adding Melton. Defensively he makes use of his near 6’9″ wingspan, but he also contributes on the offensive end. His ball-handling ability has been a positive impact and Melton has also been a willing shooter from deep. So far this season he is shooting 40.7% from beyond the arc while attempting 3.4 long-range shots per game.

The 24-year-old also has found a home as a short-roller off the pick-and-roll. His ability to create as a playmaker has been effective in creating corner three-pointers for Tobias Harris and P.J. Tucker. His combination of athleticism, size, and balanced play has been effective and he will continue to be relied on heavily by the Sixers.

Sixers Defensive Emphasis

Coming into the season, the Sixers emphasized that defense was at the top of their list of goals. As Joel Embiid put it to reporters during media day, “Our focus is on defense. We aim to be the best defensive team in the league. That’s gonna take all of us. I’ve gotta get back to not waiting until the fourth [quarter] to be that guy. Doing it all game. … We’ve got the pieces.”

It is still early in the season, but Melton has established himself as one of these key pieces that Embiid is referring to. The Sixers have also seen success from reintroducing Thybulle to the rotation after he played less than six minutes combined through the first five games. The combination of length between Thybulle and Melton has been troublesome to opponents, especially when the Sixers play zone coverage which they have played a healthy dose of to open up the season.

So far this season the Sixers rank 19th in the NBA in defensive efficiency so they have a ways to go. There has been improvement in recent games, but it is going to take some time for the team to reach the elite level that is desired. A great deal of this responsibility will be on Embiid, who has not been the two-way force that is expected thus far. There are still 74 games left in the regular season and plenty of time for this to improve. The early signs are indicating that Melton looks to be a perfect addition to this Sixers roster.

Read More