DeAnthony Melton

Why starting Melton next to Steph would be wise Warriors move

NBC Universal, Inc.

SAN FRANCISCO – Through a four-week stretch early last season, the Philadelphia 76ers had the best starting lineup in the NBA. They were rolling, and shooting guard De’Anthony Melton was a major factor.

When Melton’s back flared up in late-December, forcing him out of the lineup, the metrics began to slide. The 76ers were a lesser team after the calendar flipped to 2024 largely because of Melton’s many absences, along with those of center Joel Embiid.

Melton’s defensive impact is what the Warriors loved, and it’s primary among the reasons they signed him to a one-year contract worth $12.8 million.

It’s also why he should be a seamless fit next to Stephen Curry in Golden State’s starting lineup next season.

“I was what they were looking for,” Melton said during a news conference Monday at Chase Center. “And what the organization has lacked in the past couple years in terms of defense and versatility and shooting. Those are the things that I bring to the table.”

Melton’s defense is at a level much like that of prime Klay Thompson, who embraced the toughest perimeter challenges and was named to the NBA All-Defensive Team in 2018-19. Thompson’s defense allowed Curry the freedom to sag off less threatening shooters and keep an eye on the passing lanes.

Thompson’s defense, before he sustained major injuries in 2019 and 2020, was the unsung element in the success of the Splash Brothers.

Melton, 26, has the mentality and ability to replicate that. He says he can’t remember a time when defense wasn’t in his heart and mind.

“I think I’ve had it since I was born,” Melton said. “Everybody in my family, we harp on defense. Scoring is good. But can you get a stop? You can’t allow somebody score on you all day and night.”

Though Golden State coach Steve Kerr will decide who starts next to Curry, logic dictates it would be Melton. Buddy Hield, another new Warrior, is an offense-first player, with defense as an afterthought. Brandin Podziemski’s defense is improving, but he’s not nearly as proficient as Melton.

Whereas Thompson was shooter that could defend, Melton is a defender that can shoot. In his last healthy season, 2022-23, he played 77 games (58 starts) and shot 39.0 percent from distance. His career percentage is 36.9.

Melton said his back issue – described as a “lumbar spine stress response” – is “a lot better,” and that he has been training hard since May. He looks forward to sharing the floor with Curry.

“It’s going to be easy,” he said. “I like to move without the ball, too. With Steph, he attracts so much attention and awareness that if you set a back screen for him, three guys might run into it. And the next thing you know, you’re open.”

With Melton joining Gary Payton II on the roster, the Warriors have two elite perimeter defenders capable of guarding at least three positions.

As far as replacing Thompson, Melton knows what lies ahead, especially if he’s in the starting lineup with Curry.

“I understand everything they went through the last, what, 13 years they were together, the four championships they won,” he said. “There’s nothing I can do to replace that emotionally or mentally.

“All I can do is just go out there and play my game. Play hard and show why other fan bases love me, too.”

If Melton can effectively defend the likes of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jamal Murray and Ja Morant, Dub Nation will fall in love with him.

Download and follow the Dubs Talk Podcast

Contact Us