Sixers: Projecting the 2022-23 starting five and bench unit

James Harden, P.J. Tucker, Sixers (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
James Harden, P.J. Tucker, Sixers (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
(Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images) /

Sixers sixth man: De’Anthony Melton

The most underrated move of the summer was Philadelphia’s acquisition of De’Anthony Melton. For only the 23rd pick, the Sixers acquired an affordable 24-year-old guard with elite defensive potential and an excellent complementary skill set on offense.

Last season was Melton’s best to date, averaging 10.8 points and 4.5 rebounds on .404/.374/.750 splits in 22.7 minutes per game. He has the length and versatility to play with James Harden or Tyrese Maxey, as well as the ball-handling chops needed to run the second unit if called upon. His spot-up 3s and athletic straight-line drives should translate well to Doc Rivers’ offense.

Philadelphia already has two high-minute guards in Harden and Maxey, but even so, Melton should probably lead the second unit in playing time. Given P.J. Tucker’s advanced age, the Sixers can instead rely on Melton’s younger legs and presence as a perimeter stopper in clutch situations. He’s another steady playmaker late in games, while Harden is naturally geared toward defending wings — not ball-handlers — anyway.

Melton has been somewhat up and down over the course of his career, but he’s one of the more under-appreciated two-way players the league has to offer. He will contribute instantly and extensively in Philadelphia, and there’s ample reason to believe he could stick around long term.