Sixers Notes: Melton, Maxey, Tucker, Harden

When the Sixers gave up a first-round pick and Danny Green‘s expiring contract for De’Anthony Melton, they knew they were getting a strong defender who could make a three-point shot, but the former Grizzlies guard has given them “more connective tissue in the half court” than they might have expected, writes ESPN’s Zach Lowe (Insider link).

Melton’s play-making and screening ability has been valuable for Philadelphia, according to Lowe, who notes that the team has scored an average of 1.2 points when a Melton screen leads directly to a shot. That’s 17th among 244 players who have set 50 such screens, Lowe writes, citing Second Spectrum. The 24-year-old has also handed out a career-best 3.3 assists per game.

Melton’s presence has helped the 76ers withstand injury absences for James Harden and Tyrese Maxey in the early part of the 2022/23 season. Despite not opening the season as part of Philadelphia’s starting five, Melton has made 20 starts in 27 appearances so far.

Here’s more on the Sixers:

  • Given how well the 76ers have played with Melton in the starting lineup (they have a 13-7 record in those games), there has been some speculation about the possibility of bringing Maxey off the bench as the leader of the second unit when he returns from his foot injury. Kyle Neubeck of considers the case for making such a move, but ultimately concludes that it’s probably not in the team’s best interest.
  • In his latest mailbag for The Philadelphia Inquirer, Keith Pompey also argues against making Maxey the sixth man once he’s healthy. Pompey’s mailbag explores several other topics, including whether the Sixers’ three-year, $33MM+ investment in P.J. Tucker will turn out as poorly as the four-year, $109MM deal they gave Al Horford in 2019 — given the relative size of the two deals, Pompey believes there’s no comparison between the two, especially since Horford was never a good fit, while Tucker is beginning to show overall improvement in his role.
  • In his first seven games back from a foot injury, Harden has averaged nearly 39 minutes per night. However, head coach Doc Rivers isn’t concerned about the former MVP’s heavy recent workload, per Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia. “I’ll guarantee you, by the end of the year, you’ll look at his numbers and they’ll look great,” Rivers said. “It’s a whole year. That’s why we can’t overdo things when guys have a three-week spike in minutes and all of a sudden we’re overreacting to that. You don’t. We’ve been low on guards, and so guys have to play minutes. And James is one of those guys that can handle minutes. But by the end of the year, his minutes will be down.”
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