The Houston Rockets have selected De'Anthony Melton in the 2018 NBA draft with the No. 46 overall pick.
Kept off the floor this season by USC for his ties to the FBI's pay-for-play investigation, Melton withdrew from school in February. But he'd created enough intrigue as a freshman to keep teams interested, and after a strong performance at the NBA combine in May, he was able to revive his stock and remind scouts why he could be a valuable NBA combo guard.
Size: 6'3 ¼"
Weight: 193.2 pounds
Wingspan: 6'8 ½"
Reach: 8'3 ½"
Pro-player comparison: Marcus Smart
Melton isn't a true lead guard, but he does a good job of finding teammates as a playmaker within the offense. Per 40 minutes as a freshman, he averaged 5.1 assists to 2.6 turnovers. He ranked in the 72nd percentile as a pick-and-roll passer and in the 95th percentile as a passer to the roll man. Based on the small sample size of attempts we saw at the combine, Melton also looks to have made progress with his jump shot, which would be a key development as he looks to become a more complete offensive threat.
Melton shot 28.0 percent on total jump shots as a freshman, when he totaled 21 three-point makes in 36 games. He doesn't create shots for himself at a high level, having converted five times total in isolation, and graded out in the 10th percentile as a pick-and-roll scorer. Melton was also only 3-of-15 on floaters, a shot he'll need given his lack of explosiveness and pull-up game. He had trouble scoring off the ball in 2016-17 as well, finishing 5-of-13 on spot-up drives to the basket.
Defense is the main draw for Melton, who can make things happen with his pressure and playmaking. His defensive instincts are special. He averaged 2.8 steals and 1.5 blocks per 40 minutes, showing the ability to fly around and make reads and plays on the ball. Melton has quick hands and anticipation, and he'll lock down both guard positions with his 6'8 ½" wingspan and physicality, which fuels comparisons to Smart.
Melton's defense could earn him an early role despite the fact he didn't play a game last season. He's a mature player who competes, and he should get reps handling the ball for the second unit. He won't look to be overly creative, but Melton should get by offensively by pressing the right buttons and capitalizing in the open floor.
Projected role: Two-way playmaking role player
Upside isn't part of the deal with Melton, who doesn't project as a high-level scorer or creator. But playing to his strengths, he has the chance to become a high-end role player like Smart, a versatile guard capable of impacting the game in other ways. Melton will likely always be valued for his defense first, but his passing remains a plus. And if the flashes of shooting in May were indicative of legitimate improvement, he has the chance to be a steal.