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USC to NBA Summer League Report: Melton finding a Rhythm for Houston

Plenty to love from the early going of Melton’s tenure with Houston

NCAA Basketball: Lehigh at Southern California Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Euro stepping the obvious problem of an FBI investigation and not missing his sophomore season, the pre-draft knock on USC Trojan shooting guard De’Anthony Melton was how raw a prospect he appeared.

But as the Summer League pushes on through the sweltering Las Vegas heat, the doubt around Melton has quickly dissipated.

In the opening game of the Houston Rockets Vegas run, the former Trojan was 3-for-15 in a debut that yielded just six points. Despite the shaky scoring, he was seemingly everywhere to impact the game. Six rebounds and a pair of steals went nicely with four assists, while Melton also added pesky backcourt defense. A great, all-around day paled in comparison to game two.

Against the Golden State Warriors, Melton found an offensive rhythm, shooting a much-improved 6-of-12, going for 17 points. Melton also secured four steals and a block, as well as five boards. He dominated on both sides of the ball in a tight exhibition game. Not the impact expected from such a predetermined project.

Why it Works

The system is set up perfectly for maximum success from Melton. As a Trojan freshman, his strengths were a solid first step, great speed, and length destined to annoy opponents.

His upsides were a developing shot - particularly from the arc - and a tenacious defensive presence. On-ball, Melton made himself the go-to catch-and-shoot option in the backcourt, working off the game of Jordan McLaughlin. Then, he landed in Houston.

On both sides of the ball, the pick slide right into the Rockets system. A pesky, long defender in a defense that constantly switches gives Melton both the chance to play more on the ball and exercise a natural ability to disrupt. A true ballhawk, Melton has proven his defensive brass by accumulating six steals.

Though he will continue to grow, Melton is in a defensive scheme that will have him succeed right away, and it already shows.

On offense, the fit continues, as isolation play meets Melton’s flashy speed. Houston builds pick-in-roll success off an attack that starts with isolation, something Melton can take right to the rim. Because of the length and speed, paired with an offense trying to work him free, he can eat constantly. But isolation works both ways, making his USC tenure even more valuable to his NBA career. Playing with the ball dominate McLaughlin for a season has given Melton fantastic off-ball awareness. He already has been trained to move without the ball and take advantage of the space made by the isolation system.

Taking the ecstasy of the pick another step, the Rockets have an aged starting guard in Chris Paul returning, having also lost perimeter defense via Trevor Ariza’s departure. Eric Gordon is more than comfortable both on and off the ball, while Gerald Green sees sparse minutes. The deep Rockets roster is not so crowded for a player with Melton’s talents as it may appear.

The Houston/Melton pairing could not have been any more perfect, already fleshing out the merits of the union.