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Rockets select De’Anthony Melton in 2018 NBA Draft

The shooting guard from USC will be the newest Rocket.

USC v Baylor Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

De’Anthony Melton, welcome to Houston.

The Rockets picked the 6-foot-3 shooting guard out of USC with the 46th pick in the NBA Draft, their only selection in 2018. (turns out, the Rockets bought another pick from Utah!)

Melton is a strong athlete, plus defender with long arms and the ability to create for himself and others off the dribble. He’s not a great shooter yet, but he’s hit his share of three-pointers, isn’t afraid to shoot and has a workable stroke.

Sports Illustrated gave him a player comparison of Iman Shumpert, which I don’t mind. Shumpert was a contributor on a playoff team right out of college. He’s been slowed by injuries, but he won a championship in Cleveland. Was he LeBron’s ideal running mate? No, but he’s been a valuable contributor for years. At 46? I’ll take that all day.

The guy this is really insurance for is Eric Gordon. He’s under contract and, if LeBron turns down the Rockets, a certainty to remain in Houston. He’s been mostly healthy his two years here, although he was banged up down the stretch and his shot faltered.

Can Melton run a playoff offense? No, of course not. But can he provide minutes to spell Gordon and give the Rockets a four guard rotation? It’s possible, though not unlikely with Mike D’Antoni as coach.

Melton averaged 8.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.8 steals in 27 minutes a game in his lone season at USC. He was forced to sit out last year due to nonsense that could only happen in the NCAA. From USA Today:

Federal prosecutors alleged Elliott, who Melton says he doesn’t speak to anymore, accepted $5,000 in exchange for ushering Melton toward would-be agent Christian Dawkins and a financial adviser once he turned pro. During an internal investigation, USC discovered “extra benefits” Elliott received, which ultimately led to the decision to hold Melton out.

USC and Melton were concerned about forfeitures if he had played, though he has never publicly been accused of any violation, and he said Thursday he never took any money.

“I was shocked,” Melton said. “There’s no way this is me. Come to find out, the school first brought me in. I got cleared of the $5,000 pretty quick and then some more stuff came up that kind of really just set it over the edge, so I think that was really shocking to me.”

He withdrew from school in February and has been training for the NBA ever since. In all likelihood, that means getting up thousands of jumpers. He’s in LA, the hotbed of NBA talent and where most of the mercenary coaches/trainers are based. Sitting out the college season sucked, but it also deflated his value, and he could wind up being a valuable player as the Rockets recharge and go for an NBA title.

Of course, he could also be a valuable piece in a trade for a veteran more likely to get playoff minutes. But the Rockets don’t have a lot of youth, and there was a lot of noise around Houston that they were looking to move up and get younger. Trades are always possible with Morey at the helm, but I’m betting Melton gets minutes in Houston not too far in the future.