Sitting at 12-12 and in 8th place in the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia 76ers still have plenty to prove this season. They are beginning a seven-game homestand without any back-to-back matchups and have a terrific chance to begin climbing up the conference. This will kick off against the Los Angeles Lakers who have won eight of their last 12 games following their disappointing start to the season.
De’Anthony Melton was asked about how he believes the Sixers fare against this Western Conference foe. Melton put it, “I like us all-in-all down the line. We just have to go out there and play our game. We can’t fix what they like to do or what they want us to do. We have to go out there and play our game, play to our strengths,” per Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Melton Facing Hometown Team?
Melton, who is a native of North Hollywood, also was asked about his loyalty growing up. He admitted that many of his family members were Lakers fans but that he grew up rooting for the Clippers. The 24-year-old went as far as to say that he actively rooted against the Lakers growing up and stated, “I wanted the Clippers to win four or five championships when I was younger. So it’s just crazy to see [Elton Brand] now and how everything unfolded, especially with Doc,” per Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
There are several full-circle moments for Melton within the Sixers organization. He discussed having an Elton Brand jersey growing up and the former NBA standout now serves as the Sixers’ general manager. While President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey gets most of the credit for bringing in talent, it is likely Brand played a role in Melton’s arrival as well. Melton was also drafted by Morey with the Rockets in 2018 before being traded shortly after. As Melton alluded to, Doc Rivers also served as the coach of the Clippers from the 2013-14 season to the 2019-20 season before the former second-round pick came into the NBA.
Melton’s On-Court Play
Beyond the nostalgia of all the connections in Philadelphia, Melton has made an important impact so far this season. Through the opening 22 games of the season, he has started 15 games and averaged 10.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 2.0 rebounds per game. He is connecting on 35.8% of his three-point attempts while launching 5.6 long-range shots per game.
The eye-popping defense has been especially impressive and is necessary alongside a backcourt in which Tyrese Maxey and James Harden each have their difficulties on this side of the ball. Melton stepped up in a major way during the absence of the two guards and will continue to play a key role with the team fully healthy. His additional ball-handling, willing shooting, and overall two-way ability have made a massive impact on this Sixers team.
While some of the new additions have drawn criticism for not making enough impact, Melton has quickly become a fan favorite. His versatile play and eye-popping athleticism have been hard to come by on this Sixers roster. It would not be a major surprise if there is a push for him to become a permanent member of the starting lineup in the long run, but his impact is sure to be felt regardless.