3. Houston may have hit the lottery in the second round
De’Anthony Melton had some moments as a freshman at USC in 2016-17, as the kid from Encino, Calif., averaged 8.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 27.0 minutes per game for the Trojans.
But Melton ran afoul of the NCAA after a family friend was linked to the college basketball bribery scandal, according to the Los Angeles Times, and he wound up withdrawing from school in February and declared for the NBA Draft when he was able.
Melton, understand, was never publicly accused of anything. But the NCAA in its infinite wisdom declared Melton ineligible because someone on his periphery may have possibly done something.
There is a reason I’ve enjoyed using the Nitwits Controlling Amateur Athletes moniker for the NCAA for the last 30 or so years and the Melton case is one of those.
In any event, the 6-foot-4 guard who hadn’t played a competitive game in more than a year was available when the Houston Rockets were on the clock with the 46th pick in June’s NBA Draft and he has looked like one of the biggest steals in recent memory.
Yes, it’s Summer League. Yes, many of the opponents Melton has faced will be playing in various obscure locales across the globe.
But you could see it Wednesday, the “it” factor that Melton seems to have. He struggled with his shot, going 6-for-16 in 33 minutes, but did other things.
He facilitated, with four assists. He defended well and nabbed three steals. He sealed off long rebounds on the defensive end, grabbing five boards. He was one of those guys you could watch for just a few minutes and see that he was at a level higher than most of the players around him.
The Rockets don’t have a lot of backcourt minutes to spare with Chris Paul and James Harden entrenched in the starting lineup, but Melton could still be a valuable bench piece for a team that has been at the vanguard of the pace-and-space revolution.
And that he was there at No. 46 for the Rockets says a lot more about NCAA rules and regulations being completely weighted against athletes who have no control over how the adults around them decide to behave than it does his ability on the basketball court.