While many fans will focus on whether the Los Angeles Lakers can land any big fish in free agency — Paul George, LeBron James, etc. — the front office also need to fill other holes on their team.
Last year, the purple and gold found themselves in quite a few predicaments due to their lack of depth, and while injuries allowed players like Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart to flourish by getting shoved into the spotlight, it also exposed the Lakers’ lack of competent rotation players.
One of the team’s most glaring holes came at backup point guard, with Tyler Ennis and Alex Caruso eating up the lion’s share of the backup point guard minutes.
While Brandon Ingram slid in nicely when Lonzo Ball got hurt, the Lakers still need to shore up that spot if they want to compete going forward.
Enter De’Anthony Melton
Melton is a Southern California native, born in North Hollywood and playing his high school ball at Crespi Carmelite High School (Encino, CA).
In high school, Melton showed his versatility by being more of a point-forward for his team. Melton was able to run the offense, but also did a lot of the dirty work.
“I was doing a lot of screening and popping,” Melton told Mike Schmitz of ESPN.
When he entered USC, many saw Melton has a type of player that would be instrumental to the Trojans turning their basketball program around, but while Melton played well in his freshman year, averaging 8.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists, his game didn’t pop.
Melton also didn’t shoot very well, only making 43.7% of his field goals and 28.4 % of his shots from behind the arc.
But just as Melton thought he was going to be able to improve his stock in his sophomore season at USC, he received some crippling news: federal prosecutors were investigating a family friend for accepting a bribe from an agent hoping to sign Melton, according to the LA Times):
Melton was forced to withdraw from college and focus on the NBA draft.
While playing his second year in college could’ve been beneficial to Melton, many people still believe he will be drafted late in the first round of the draft.
The former Trojan could be a real value pick at the end of the first because of his high defensive potential and the fact he’s a willing passer and excellent rebounder for his size.
The Southern California product has a massive wingspan 6-8 wingspan, which is significant for someone that is 6-3, and has gotten is total body fat down to 5.2% (insert Magic smiling GIF)
All those factors make Melton exactly the type of player that fits well into the Lakers plan, so it makes sense the team interviewed him at the 2018 NBA Draft combine.
Luke Walton and the front office love players that are versatile, unselfish and have a tireless work ethic.
At the combine, Melton hoped to catch a team’s eye with his relentless effort and improved jumper.
”My shooting ability has gotten a lot better,” Melton said (via ESPN). “My decision-making and my defense, all that’s going to never leave me … I’m going to have all that for the rest of my life. Just show teams that I’m ready and I play older than what I look like.”
Melton’s play reflects some of the roles players we are still watching in the NBA playoffs.
One player that resembles the role Melton hopes to fill in the NBA is Marcus Smart.
Melton is a pitbull on defense, and will accept the task of guarding the other team’s best player for long stretches and will be asked to hit open three-pointers.
Another player that Melton could emulate is Shaun Livingston.
Like Livingston, Melton is a very unselfish player who can be the secondary playmaker or change help run the second unit’s offense.
Still, teams will have to decide if they can live with a guy that is an average athlete, has limited potential on the offensive end and has a jumper that needs fixing.
But despite that, Melton is someone that’s easy to imagine playing ten crucial minutes in a Western Conference finals game, with the Lakers down 3-2 and their star player having just picked his fifth foul with seven minutes left in the third quarter.
Those are the type players teams want to fill their roster with, and if the Lakers end up selecting Melton this June, fans can feel safe knowing the Lakers just added another member to their already solid young core.