Sixers’ Melton Returns Friday After Lengthy Absence

Sixers guard De’Anthony Melton returned from an 18-game absence on Friday vs. Cleveland, tweets Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Melton, who last played on January 12, has been dealing with a lumbar injury in his back.

The 25-year-old had started all 33 games in which he appeared this season prior to Friday, when he came off the bench on a minutes restriction. Melton, one of the team’s best defenders, has averaged 11.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 3.2 APG and 1.6 SPG on .393/.363/.827 shooting in 29.1 MPG through 33 contests.

Veteran forward Nicolas Batum had also missed the past nine games leading into the All-Star break with a hamstring injury prior to Thursday, when he played 18 minutes in the loss to New York. While he was technically available for the back-to-back Friday, he hasn’t actually played through three quarters, likely just to be cautious because he’s 35 and soft-tissue injuries are tricky.

As our tracker shows, Melton and Batum are two of a possible 14 free agents for the Sixers in 2024. That’s the highest FA total in the league — the Lakers are second with up to 11.

Melton, who is also eligible for a veteran extension, is making $8MM in 2023/24, while Batum makes $11.7MM.

The Sixers are currently 32-23, the No. 5 seed in the East.

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