De’Anthony Melton, Clint Capela, and Jaylen Brown
De’Anthony is Melton his opponents into smithereens every time he steps onto the hardwood. Melton is making the most of his measly twenty minutes per game, doing everything but mopping the floors for Memphis. Every impact metric agrees with the eye test; De’Anthony is killing his role as a two-way rotation player in a backup role. Melton has the highest positive change in box plus minus in the NBA from last season, raising his BPM from -0.2 to 4.6. He ranks 26th in the NBA in EPM (+3.3), via Dunks and Threes, and he ranks 61st in the league in LEBRON (1.41), via BBall Index.
Melton’s been money on and off the ball all year, primarily running pick-and-rolls for Grizzlies bench units. De’Anthony also takes advantage of Memphis’ strong defense by scoring in transition, as the Grizzlies are T-4th in the NBA at forcing turnovers. (15.2% via Cleaning The Glass)
De’Anthony Melton has made 46% of his 117 three-pointers and 52% of his 23 twos, scoring 1.33 PPP on all Jump Shots, which ranks 3rd in the NBA among players with 100+ Jump Shots. He’s scored 1.43 PPP on 86 catch-and-shoot attempts and 1.167 PPP on 54 off-the-dribble jumpers; ranking in the NBA’s 97th and 93rd percentile, respectively. Melton’s been rated a “very good” scorer by Synergy, ranking in the 79th percentile for Overall Half Court efficiency (1.053 PPP). With De’Anthony Melton off the court, the Grizzlies have a negative -3.48 Net Rating; with De’Anthony Melton on the court, the Grizzlies have a positive +10.09 Net Rating. (via PBP Stats NBA WOWY)
LET D-MELT COOK!
De’Anthony rates highly operating every element of P&R. Overall, Memphis is scoring 1.12 PPP in 175 possessions where Melton is the P&R Ball-Handler, ranking in the NBA’s 92nd percentile. De’Anthony’s been more efficient when making plays for others out of P&R than he has when scoring out of the play-type; Melton’s scored 0.948 PPP himself in 96 possessions, while the Grizzlies have scored 1.329 PPP in the 79 times Melton has passed out of P&R.
Melton brings enough food for the whole class when he’s setting up the pick-and-roll. Desmond Bane needs to eat off spot-up threes from drive-and-kicks? Done. Need someone to attack the rim, draw two defenders, and toss the lob to the sky-walking Brandon Clarke? Easy. Want your point guard to prod around the paint, shoulder-fake one way, and hit the roller with a smooth bounce pass leading him into a shot? In his sleep.
He’s comfortable against single coverage and when defense commits, with the defense only fully trapping him in P&R four times this season. When the defense commits, Memphis has scored 1.14 PPP on 93 possessions with Melton running P&R, while the Grizzlies have scored 1.098 PPP in the 82 possessions with De’Anthony as P&R ball-handler where the defense played Melton straight up with single coverage.
De’Anthony Melton’s chemistry with Xavier Tillman Jr. has been a beauty to watch, with the Melton-Tillman P&R becoming a staple of Memphis’ bench mob. With both Melton and Tillman on the court in 303 MIN this season, Memphis has a +15.17 Net Rating, compared to a -7.66 Net Rating in the 552 MIN with both players OFF the court. (in games both players played; via NBA WOWY on PBP Stats)
Melton is crafty with the ball in his hands, able to penetrate the paint by using his body positioning to get defenders leaning one way before attacking the other, hitting Tillman with bounce passes right into his gut over and over again:
Players who are active on both ends of the floor tend to have a high floor at the NBA level; it’s easier to make a rotation if a coach doesn’t have to cover up for a player’s deficiencies while they’re on the court. Melton continues to prove he’s an NBA rotation player by playing smart team-first basketball on both ends of the floor, always looking to involve his teammates in the action.
The Matterhorn is a recognizably beautiful-yet-frightening mountain in the Swiss Alps. Clint Capela is the highest-earning team athlete in Switzerland’s history, a tall human known for rocking rims and swatting shots; there’s a nickname in here somewhere. When we bring up names like Jrue Holiday, Ben Simmons, Bam Adebayo, Joel Embiid, Rudy Gobert and Myles Turner this season for Defensive Player of the Year talk, we shouldn’t be leaving Capela out of that conversation. The Clint Capela who locked up Karl-Anthony Towns for an entire playoff series is BACK.
With the Hawks’ team defense not too spectacular as a whole (ranked 19th via Cleaning The Glass), Clint likely won’t win the DPOY award, but he’ll at least be in the conversation for an All-Defensive team. The Hawks have a 109.7 D-RTG and +7.69 Net Rating in 1518 MIN with Capela ON the floor, compared to a 119.3 D-RTG and -8.25 Net Rating in 902 MIN with Capela OFF the court. (via NBA WOWY on PBP Stats)
Clint Capela the rim-running paint-protector is crushing his role on both ends as a clear starter. Capela’s +3.29 LEBRON impact rating ranks 19th in the NBA, his +3.7 EPM ranks 20th, and his +3.0 BPM is T-30th in the league with Jaylen Brown and Domantas Sabonis. (via BBall Index, Dunks and Threes, and Basketball Reference, respectively)
Clint Capela is one of four players blocking two shots per game. Clint ranks highly in metrics measuring rim-protection and contesting shots: Capela’s 50.7% dFG% ranks 8th among players with 200+ contested shots within <6 ft; his 51.6% dFG% ranks 8th among players who have contested 200+ contested shots overall; and his 9.5 contested 2PT shots per game is T-7th in the league, while his 11.4 overall contested shots per game ranks 11th.(via NBA Stats)
Capela’s doing his job on the boards and offensive end, if not working overtime; he’s rolling, rebounding, and cutting like crazy. Clint leads the league in rebounds per game (14.5) and offensive boards per game. (4.8) Capela has the second-most put backs in the league, scoring 1.114 PPP in 193 possessions. Around the basket, on non-post-ups, Clint’s scoring 1.218 PPP on 445 attempts, a rate of 60.2% FG%.
Atlanta has scored 1.164 PPP on the 159 possessions involving a cutting Capela. His 1.1064 Overall Half Court PPP ranks in the league’s 81st percentile. The Hawks are scoring 1.23 PPP in 161 possessions with Clint as the P&R Roll Man, tied for the sixth best rate in the league with Nikola Jokic. Clint scores the same 1.23 PPP whether he slips the pick (26 possessions) or rolls to the basket (132 possessions), while only popping out of the pick four times in the entire season.
On pace to become the first player to average 15 points and 14 boards while shooting 60+% from the field since Wilt, one could say Capela’s been a model of consistency this season. Somehow, in the last fifteen games, he’s taken his game to an even stronger level; Clint’s posting per-game averages of 18 points, 15 boards, and 2 blocks while shooting 62.4% FG% on 11.9 FGA and 64.4% TS% overall, with the Hawks going 10–5 with the 12th-best point differential during that span.
In addition to rocking the rim on one end, Capela has put a lid on the rim on the other. Clint’s been such defensive menace, he forces opponents to think twice before attacking the paint. The Matterhorn, that mountain pictured earlier, has one of the deadliest peaks in the world; no one would even try to ascend it, not due to technical difficulty, but because of the fear it inspired in early mountaineers. Clint Capela is a scary Swiss Alps mountain; he is The Matterhorn. Don’t try to climb The Matterhorn lightly.
Iwould be remiss to talk about Jaylen Brown’s on-court play right now without first mentioning his impact off the court as an activist and human being. Brown’s thoughtfully outspoken on countless topics, and he’s constantly on the forefront speaking up for what he thinks is right. Jaylen Brown (pictured above) drove fifteen hours to Atlanta to lead a protest against the unjust death of George Floyd. With a guilty verdict just announced this week, Jaylen and the rest of the country can take a collective sigh of relief; at the very least, a level of accountability was reached. We can only hope this decision brings our society one step closer to real long-term justice for all. Here’s some of Jaylen Brown’s thoughts on athlete activism, Kaepernick, and the role sports play in society:
“I knew they weren’t going to let (Kaepernick) back. Nobody wanted the media attention or to take the risk. They probably just wanted to blackball him out of the league.That’s the reality because sports is a mechanism of control. If people didn’t have sports they would be a lot more disappointed with their role in society. There would be a lot more anger or stress about the injustice of poverty and hunger. Sports is a way to channel our energy into something positive. Without sports who knows what half of these kids would be doing?
“We’re having some of the same problems we had 50 years ago. Some things have changed a lot but other factors are deeply embedded in our society. It takes protests like Kaepernick’s to make people uncomfortable and aware of these hidden injustices. People are now a lot more aware, engaged and united in our culture. It takes a special person like Kaepernick to force these changes — because often reporters and fans say: ‘If you’re an athlete I don’t want you to say anything. You should be happy you’re making x amount of money playing sport. You should be saluting America instead of critiquing it.’ That’s our society.”
As a star player on a marquee team in a league that likes to be viewed as “woke”, perhaps Jaylen has more leeway to speak his mind than others. It’s not just NFL players who worry about job safety when it comes to activism; NBA players also fear teams will treat them differently if they speak up about real life issues, especially if they’re not considered franchise cornerstones. George Hill has wondered aloud if his activism from the bubble leading to the Bucks boycotting a game had anything to do with him being traded from Milwaukee soon-after.
Without listening to the perspective of the oppressed, how will we understand what constitutes progress? Media and fans constantly want players to open up, then turn around and bash anyone who says something out of the ordinary. It’s refreshing to see Jaylen, George, and so many other players feel comfortable enough to not stick to sports, to share how they’re feeling as individuals and discuss the collective weight of it all. Hopefully this surge in athlete activism leads to more sports fans realizing that hoopers are people first and entertainers second. Now, let’s take a look at how Jaylen Brown has performed on the hardwood.
Jaylen Brown’s taken a leap on multiple fronts this season, especially as a finisher. Brown drives 10.3 times per game, the 47th-most in the league; among players with 10+ drives per game, Jaylen ranks 19th in FG% (51.9%) and 37th in Pass % (34.4%), via NBA Stats. Those rates are up from last season, where Brown’s 48.8% FG% ranked 33rd and 29.8% Pass % ranked 66th among players with 8+ drives per game. Jaylen’s 8.3 drives per game was tied for the 59th most frequent rate in the 2019–20 season.
Brown’s averaging 1.6x as many assists as last year, 3.4 assists per game, with a career-high 1.26 A/TO, which constitutes a playmaking jump for someone who’s struggled in the area. Jaylen’s playing at the highest level of his career, posting career-highs in essentially every recorded stat in the box score. Here’s the list, via basketball reference: points, assists, blocks, steals, offensive boards, field goals made/taken/percentage, three-pointers made/taken/percentage, two-pointers made/taken/percentage, free throws made/percentage, true shooting percentage, effective field goal percentage, player efficiency rating, assist percentage, usage percentage, and box plus minus.
The impact metrics are hit or miss, but Brown’s clearly having his best season. Jaylen’s 3.0 BPM is tied with Clint Capela and Domantas Sabonis at 34th in the NBA, via Basketball Reference; his +2.3 EPM is tied for 51st in the league, via Dunks and Threes; while his +0.61 LEBRON is ranked all the way down at 105th, via BBall Index.
Jaylen’s highest-volume play-type has been in transition, taking advantage of Boston’s 13th-ranked defense (112.5 D-RTG) which forces the 13th-most turnovers (14.4% TOV%), via Cleaning The Glass. His 1.015 Overall Half Court PPP rates in the league’s 67th percentile. Brown’s sneakily worked well out of the post, with his 1.264 Post Up PPP on 53 possessions ranking in the NBA’s 96th percentile. Jaylen’s Celtics are scoring 0.957 Hand Off PPP, 0.821 Off Screen PPP, and 0.75 ISO PPP in some of Brown’s worst play-types, via Synergy.
Jaylen’s shined this season running pick-and-rolls and hitting jump shots of all styles, most notably in spot-up looks. Overall, the Celtics have scored 1.103 PPP in 302 possessions with Jaylen playing the role of P&R Ball-Handler, ranking in the league’s 90th percentile. When Brown passes out of P&R, Boston scores 1.243 PPP in 111 possessions, which ranks in the 83rd percentile; when Brown attempts to score out of P&R, the Celts score 1.021 PPP in 191 possessions, which ranks in the 85th percentile. Jaylen Brown is one of the best P&R ball-handlers in the league at reacting when the defense commits, with the 6th-ranked scoring efficiency (1.092 PPP) among players with 100+ possessions in the play-type, ranking in the 85th percentile overall.
On and off the ball, Brown’s been getting buckets. Overall, Jaylen’s shooting 43% on 474 jump shots, scoring 1.11 PPP and ranking in the league’s 78th percentile. Finally taking superstar shots, he’s scoring in the mid-range in addition to the rest of the court, shooting 48.3% on shots within seventeen feet, 47% on mid-range looks beyond that distance, and 40.1% from beyond the arc. On pull-up jumpers, Jaylen’s 0.98 PPP ranks only in the 68th percentile, but he’s shooting 43.5% on 255 Jump Shots off the dribble.
Jaylen is ranked 18th in the league in spot-up situations among players with 100+ possessions. On 228 spot-up shots, Jaylen Brown’s shooting 50.4%, while his team is scoring 1.246 PPP in 260 Spot Up possessions, ranking in the NBA’s 91st percentile. Scoring 1.295 PPP on 210 C&S attempts and shooting 43.3% FG%, Jaylen’s scoring whether he’s open or not in C&S opportunities. Brown’s scoring 1.185 Guarded C&S PPP on 108 shots and 1.412 102 Unguarded C&S PPP on 102 attempts.
Jaylen Brown’s already become an inspirational figure as an activist and an athlete, in Boston and across America. He’s always a pleasure with a microphone in his face, especially during poignant times; and, on the court, he’s been one of the twenty best players in the league this season, with a real case to make an All-NBA team. We can only expect Jaylen Brown to continue to find new ways to impress us all, on and off the court.
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data and video sources as of 4/21/20: NBA Stats, BBall Index, PBP Stats, Cleaning The Glass, Dunks and Threes, Basketball Reference