Justin Melton has come a long way from being the 13th overall pick in the 2013 PBA Draft. Back then, nobody really kept an eye on him. The draft did feature a number of marquee names (Slaughter, Sangalang, Almazan and Romeo, to name a few) that were practically assured a spot in the first round. All that we knew back then was that Justin, standing at only 5’9″ (w/ socks at that), was a freak of an athlete (dunks, dunks, and a lot of dunks!). But the San Mig Super Coffee Mixers (specifically Coach Tim Cone) saw something in him that prompted them to take him as their 3rd pick of the night. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Today, he’s already carved a spot on a loaded STAR Hotshots line-up. He has won himself a Grand Slam in only his rookie year. He already has an All-Star Slam Dunk trophy. More importantly, he’s proven that he is more than just dunks. As a matter of fact, his partnership with Mark Barroca (the Twin Terrors) is known as one of the best defensive back-court duos in the league today.
However, his minutes have been sporadic. Sometimes, he can play as much as 26 minutes in a game. Sometimes, he only plays four minutes. Sometimes, he may not play at all. Take a look at the number of minutes he has played so far for the STAR franchise over the course of 2 seasons:
Although his minutes have already increased since his rookie season, it has still been irregular. But at this point in his young career, does Justin Melton deserve more minutes? Let’s look at the numbers.
The “Quickmelt” Effect
During his rookie season, Justin Melton struggled a little bit in terms of offense as he had to learn and grasp Coach Tim Cone’s triangle offense. However, he has shown the league that he is a good defender and doesn’t really need the ball all the time in order to be effective.
Now in his second season in the PBA, Justin Melton’s also showing everybody that he can also be a dependable scorer when needed. Here in the Governor’s Cup, in the 4 games that he has played, he has been shooting the ball pretty well, averaging a career-best 56.3 True Shooting percentage. However, with the increase in terms of offensive production, his defense has been slipping quite a bit.
But despite this, the Hotshots still play better whenever Quickmelt is on the floor. In the Philippine Cup, he was number 1 (team rank) in terms of net rating with 14.7. In the Commissioner’s Cup, his net rating of 9.5 ranked 3rd with only James Yap and Allein Maliksi having better numbers. Right now in the Governor’s Cup, he still ranks 3rd (despite missing a couple of games) with a net rating of 18.7 (only Rafi Reavis and Mick Pennisi has better numbers — quite surprising too). We can see from the numbers that Justin Melton’s asset is really his defense as the STAR’s defense dips significantly whenever he’s off the floor.
With all of that being said, we ask the question:
Does Justin Melton deserve more minutes?
Looking at the numbers, the quick answer would be YES, Justin Melton deserves more minutes from the STAR Hotshots. He is improving on his offense most especially his mid-range shooting and is a very reliable defender. Coach Tim could play a three-guard combo of him together with Alex Mallari (who’s also improved significantly) and Mark Barroca without having to sacrifice offense or defense.
However, we must remember that Melton is a part of a heavily stacked STAR Hotshots team. James Yap, PJ Simon, Alex Mallari, Allein Maliksi, and Mark Barroca are worthy of minutes too. So for me, his current average playing time of 17.2 minutes per game is just about right at this point in his playing career. There are only so many minutes that can be given distributed to 6 deserving players.
Right now, Justin Melton is not a superstar in the PBA. He hasn’t reached that level yet. But he’s a very talented kid with lots of potential. He can score, he can defend, and he has proven to everybody that he’s more than just the spectacular dunks. He has a lot of things to improve on as player in order for him to reach that level, there’s no question about that. So for now, an average playing time of 17.2 minutes per game is fair.
But what I really don’t understand is Coach Tim Cone’s decision to not give him minutes in some games of the Hotshots. Is it about match-ups? I think Melton could hold his own with any guard in the league right now. More than additional minutes, I guess what Justin needs right now is regular playing time.
With regular playing time, Justin Melton could continue to improve his game and this could mean well for the Hotshots in the long run. Also, his defensive abilities alone is enough to earn him a regular playing time in STAR, a team that prides themselves in playing defense.
Hopefully, Coach Tim Cone would eventually give Justin the regular playing time he deserves. I know it’s not an easy job for a coach (distributing minutes), but with the way Melton’s been producing, he really deserves regular playing time for the Hotshots. Together with Mark Barroca, Alex Mallari, and Allein Maliksi, they form the future of this franchise. Once James and PJ decides to step away, this will be their team. I just hope that nobody gets traded; most especially, the “Quickmelt:” Justin Melton.
Featured Image Credit: Yahoo Sports PH & Josh Albelda, ABSCBN Sports (Edited by: MI.NI Graphics and Design)