3 players who could break into 76ers starting lineup

De'Anthony Melton, Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
De'Anthony Melton, Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /
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De’Anthony Melton (Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports)
De’Anthony Melton (Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports) /

Philadelphia 76ers player who could break into starting lineup: De’Anthony Melton

This is going to happen eventually. P.J. Tucker will probably get the nod when the season starts (assuming the roster doesn’t undergo sizable changes due to, like, a big trade or something) but De’Anthony Melton was the better player last season and that gap is only going to widen. Melton is 25 years old in the final year of a very affordable contract. He’s a player the Sixers will want to extend and keep around. Tucker is on an albatross contract, on a steep decline, and he’s hitching his wagon to James Harden on Instagram. So, yeah. Makes sense to prioritize Melton.

The primary concern with Melton is size. He’s only 6-foot-4 and he’s fairly skinny, which does limit matchup flexibility to a certain degree. On the other hand, he’s blessed with a 6-foot-9 wingspan and he spent plenty of time closing games next to both Harden and Maxey last season. Melton is listed as a guard, but he’s better thought of as a wing. He’s at his best jacking spot-up 3s and generating havoc away from the ball on defense. He’s less successful when he’s asked to dribble, create for teammates, or defend Kyrie Irving in isolation.

Melton can defend difficult players one-on-one, which is important when projecting him as a potential starter on the wing. Where Melton really thrives, however, is using that 6-foot-9 wingspan to break up passes or pickpocket. He finished near the top of the NBA in steals last season (1.6 per game) and he’s a deflection magnet.

This outcome becomes even more probable if Harden does get traded. The Sixers will probably get a starter or two back in a Harden deal — think Norman Powell and Robert Covington — but Melton would quickly assume two-guard duties next to Tyrese Maxey in the event that Philly doesn’t land another star guard. Melton doesn’t provide much support as a playmaker, which is a concern, but he’s an excellent spacer who has chemistry with Embiid working DHOs on the perimeter.

Melton was frequently the third or fourth-best player on the Sixers last season. He’s limited as a ball-handler and as a finisher at the rim, but elite volume shooters (39.0 percent on 5.2 attempts from deep) and defensive playmakers don’t come around too often. Melton is the best 3-and-D wing on Philly’s roster and should eventually start as a result.

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