Friday’s workout for the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena featured USC’s De’Anthony Melton and Wichita State’s Landry Shamet, two ball handlers graded near each other on most public draft boards. Melton, who I have ranked at No. 13 overall, would fill in the holes with defensive perimeter versatility and his improvement on his shot form under Drew Hanlen shows promise on that end. Meanwhile, Shamet’s sharpshooting prowess and being groomed behind Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet could make him an immediate rotation contributor upon arrival.
Rawle Alkins and Allonzo Trier were also part of this predraft session but they both are projected to go in the second round, at least in the mid-late range. While they answered questions about Deandre Ayton, I wanted to get to the bottom of the likely intense battle between Melton and Shamet in scrimmages.
When examining Melton’s profile further, his length is an immediate standout. Checking in at 6’3.5” alongside a 6’8.5” wingspan, Melton has the physical tools to stick with most, if not all, primary ball handlers. With his thicker frame and further development of his body once he receives full-time NBA strength and conditioning, Melton believes he will be able to check 1-3 on a regular basis.
Assistant General Manager Pat Connelly believes Melton’s +5” height-to-wingspan ratio will pay dividends on the next level for him
“He’s really long, so obviously he had an interesting season with what happened at USC this past year,” Connelly said. “His length gives him defensive versatility to guard the 1, the 2, and the 3. Definitely his plus wingspan is a benefit for his game.”
Melton is confident in his abilities to be a three-position defender in short order but make an immediate mark on point guards and shooting guards across the Association.
“Yeah, I think so,” Melton said. “As I get bigger and stronger, I can guard a lot more 3s. 1s and 2s I think I can do a very good job at.”
However, Melton wasn’t able to show this past season why he was the same player many NBA executives fell in love with in 2017. Due to an FBI probe and USC being super precautious, Melton was never able to suit up for the Trojans and boost his draft stock. If anything, it’s made it an uphill climb with the likes of Trae Young, Collin Sexton, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and even guard prospects like Aaron Holiday and Shamet nipping at his heels for some respected draft voices.
One answer that Melton will need to show off is his shot improvement. That was Melton’s big achilles heel throughout his freshman campaign posting subpar shooting splits of 43.7/28.4/70.6. Whether it was due to consistent problems with setting up his shot beforehand with footwork or simply misjudging distance, Melton had his fair share of hiccups in that department.
Melton mentioned Friday it’s been frustrating some days putting in tireless work on his shot but he knows that will be of upmost importance for his draft stock rising or plummeting.
Alongside names like Mohamed Bamba and near-consensus 2019 No. 1 pick RJ Barrett, Melton has been working with Hanlen on overhauling his shot mechanics towards making him a viable two-way contributor, at least to the point of helping his elite defensive production and intangibles.
Even though the Suns weren’t able to watch any new tape on Melton outside of the NBA Draft Combine in 5-on-5 action in 2018, Connelly knows of his work with Hanlen. According to him, Melton has been shooting the ball better than he has at USC during his previous workouts and during Friday’s session.
“It’s been interesting he’s been working out with in LA with Drew Hanlen,” Connelly said. “He shot it well the other day and he shot it well in the workout today so that’s obviously one of his big focuses is his ability to shoot the ball. So far, it seems like it’s trending in the right direction.”
During the 2016-17 season, Melton averaged 11.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists (+1.9 AST/TO), 2.6 steals, and 1.4 blocks per 36 minutes. Also, Melton joins only Dwyane Wade and Markelle Fultz as the only freshman guards to ever average at least 1.5 steals and 1 block.
From an advanced metrics standpoint, Melton is the only guard to ever accumulate his high steal and block percentages (4 STL% + 3.9 BLK%). The only others drafted over the past decade to come close are Andre Roberson and Nerlens Noel, two highly touted defensive prospects.
If Melton turns into the mini Roberson while becoming more consistent offensively, that’s an archetype Phoenix is desperately in need of.
The No. 1 pick decision won’t be known until after its announced, but going with Melton after Ayton would be an ideal scenario. His defensive mentality paired alongside Booker would allow him to always take the tougher assignment and he’s given two years to develop behind Brandon Knight and whoever they decide to bring in before being handed the reins.
Many ball handlers in this year’s draft class fill certain aspects to near perfection. Melton does that with his defense while Shamet brings scoring touch from all across the floor. Shamet and Melton were the two leaders of Friday’s edition of the 3-minute run. Shamet won it with 27 while Melton had 26.
In shooting drills, which we were able to see more of before the run, Shamet hardly missed. Whether it was pull-up or spot-up opportunities, Shamet barely touched the rim as the ball went through the hoop, let alone making them. From my tracking, Shamet hit over 85% of his wide-open looks while Melton was closer to 50%, including an air ball. Shamet made it look too easy in those drills, being the best of the group by a wide margin.
During his junior season at Wichita State, Shamet notched 16.9 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 5.9 assists (+2.4 AST/TO) while hitting 3s at an absurd 44.2% per 36 minutes. Shamet also has an advanced knowledge for the game, usually knowing exactly where to be on both ends to avoid mismatches.
When asked for his scouting report on Shamet, Connelly mentioned Shamet’s feel and plus scoring are standout traits.
“He’s played at a great program with a coach that kind of builds toughness in coach (Gregg) Marshall. Big guard. Very good shooter,” Connelly said. “Leader of that team and learned behind guards in front of him in Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet. Shoots the ball really well. I was out at his pro day the other day and he looks a little more cut up (physically). Big guy, versatile. Really good feel for the game.”
Baker and VanVleet have turned into reliable three-point shooters, and Shamet looks to continue that trend for Wichita State. Marshall has made the Shockers program desirable from his rugged development standpoint with making proven products like his last three starting point guards.
Shamet’s elite true shooting and three point marks put him alongside Buddy Hield, Luke Kennard, and Nik Stauskas over the years for possible offensive comparisons. In the 2018 class, Shamet is joined by Holiday, Jerome Robinson, and Jalen Brunson as combo guards who posted TS% above 60 and 3PT% above 40. And those marks are why all four will likely go top 40 three weeks from now.
Not only can Shamet be an asset at point guard but also off the ball in lineups where Booker is running the offense. His height at 6’4” (6’7” wingspan) will allow him to cover most 1s and 2s, although his concerns come from his ability to stay in front of quicker athletes.
Especially off catch-and-shoot situations, which were on full display Friday, Shamet could become someone who steps right into the league shooting +40% from distance.
“I know that’s something I can bring immediately and something I have confidence in that I’ve worked on forever,” Shamet said. “Not only make me a good point guard but off guard in this league. I feel like I can play both positions and fill whatever role coach needs me to fill whether it’s playing off the ball or being the primary ball handler. Being able to catch-and-shoot, that’s something I bring immediately.”
Versatility continues to be the buzzword for both Suns prospects worked out and their front office, but Shamet also seemed to transition smoothly toward Igor Kokoskov’s verbiage. As the Suns’ new head coach implements his system, Shamet felt good about everything being taught by Kokoskov.
If Shamet landed in Phoenix, that could signal an easier transition for him than others.
“Obviously a new coach, kind of European coach. I grew up kind of playing in a structured system that taught fundamentals, learning how to play without the ball,” Shamet said. “So, I think for one playing under that coach would be a good fit because a lot of his terminology from even today’s workout and stuff I’m familiar with. I was knowing everything he was saying. Felt good about everything he was saying.”
My grade on Shamet has him in the early second round, No. 36, so he could easily be in play for their top spot beginning the second round. And if the Suns decide upon Ayton at No. 1, then I’m here to say that Melton and Shamet at Nos. 16 and 31 could be the way to go.
With plus defense on one side and plus shooting on the other, both Melton and Shamet would be very smooth fits alongside one another. The Suns need instant impact talent and going down the avenue of Ayton, Melton, and Shamet is how they receive an easy ‘A’ grade from me.
If you’re unfamiliar with both, check out these videos below and stay tuned for in-depth scouting profiles soon on BSOTS.