De'Anthony Melton

Sixers upgrade opening-night starter Melton to questionable ahead of Pistons game

The 25-year-old guard hasn't played since Feb. 27.

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With three regular-season games remaining, the Sixers have upgraded one of their opening-night starters to questionable.

De’Anthony Melton, who’s played just five games this calendar year because of recurring lumbar spine problems, was listed as questionable for the Sixers’ Tuesday night meeting with the Pistons. 

Along with Melton, the Sixers officially designated Joel Embiid (left knee injury recovery), Tyrese Maxey (left hip tightness), Tobias Harris (left knee contusion) and Kyle Lowry (left knee effusion) as questionable. Robert Covington was still listed as out with his left knee injury.

Embiid, Harris and Lowry all missed the Sixers’ double-overtime win Sunday over the Grizzlies. In contrast, Maxey played a career-high 54 minutes and posted a career-best 52 points.

Melton’s improved status is easily the most notable item on the Sixers’ injury report. The 25-year-old guard exited the team's Feb. 27 loss to the Celtics early and has been sidelined since. Especially given that Melton played through a back injury for the large majority of last season, his situation has sometimes appeared bleak. 

However, Melton has evidently made significant strides of late with his on-court basketball work. He took post-shootaround jumpers with Maxey and worked out on the Wells Fargo Center floor before the Sixers’ win last Tuesday vs. the Thunder.

Melton has averaged 11.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.6 steals in 36 games this season. When healthy and at his best, he nicely fits how Sixers head coach Nick Nurse likes his teams to play. Melton habitually generates steals, blocks and deflections at high rates. He also rebounds well for a guard and is glad to play in transition, move the ball to open teammates, and fire up long-range jumpers. 

Though Melton’s been prone to streaky outside shooting, he’s hit 38.4 percent of his three-point shots overall since the 2020-21 season. He bounced back from a slow shooting start to this year, which didn’t surprise Nurse. 

“It figured,” Nurse said on Nov. 19 after the Sixers beat the Nets and Melton extended a hot beyond-the-arc run to 16 for 25. “He’s such a good shooter, good player. I think somebody asked me if I was worried about it, and I just figured he would find it. He was getting good shots. … I tell you what, he’s making some improvement going to the basket, too. He had a couple of really great finishes. 

“He’s kind of got both those things figured out right now. And it’s huge for us. There should be a lot of crowded paints and we’re going to need to shoot over the top of those sometimes.”

We’ll see whether the Sixers add Melton’s tools to the mix again exactly one week after Embiid’s return. 

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