Wednesday, June 25, 2014

D-League NBA Draft Prospect: Cleveland Melvin, F, Erie Bayhawks

Cleveland Melvin (left w/ball) is hoping his growth as a player at DePaul and in the D-League will help him get drafted in Thursday's upcoming NBA Draft

In a change of pace, MLH is going to take a look at a D-League prospect that is not a Delaware 87er. Former DePaul standout and Erie Bayhawk Cleveland Melvin will be eligible for the Draft on Thursday and it should be interesting to see if he'll get selected. Let's take a look at Melvin's profile.

Who is Cleveland Melvin?

A 3-star prospect out the Baltimore area according to Yahoo, the 6'8, 208 pound Melvin came to DePaul after previously committing to UConn in 2010. With a long frame and inside-outside ability as a scorer, Melvin projected some Corey Brewer potential, with the positives being his versatility and the negatives being him classified a tweener without a position (and he wasn't as strong as Brewer defensively, but the comp was still valid). As a freshman, Melvin had an instant impact with the Blue Demons, as he averaged 14.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg and 1.5 bpg in 26.2 mpg over the course of 27 games. The stellar debut season earned Melvin Big East Rookie of the Year honors, and not only did the course look bright for Melvin as a collegiate player, but for the Blue Demons squad under Oliver Purnell as well. Watch the video below and you can see Melvin flash a variety of the skills on the court, showing flashes of a raw Brewer or Anthony Randolph-type player.

Unfortunately, the Blue Demons did not show much improvement as a team under Purnell the past four seasons, and Melvin's development as a player also showed some growing pains in the years following his freshman campaign at DePaul. In his sophomore season, he earned an uptick in minutes (32.5 minutes per game) and his scoring and rebounding averages went up (17.5 and 7.4, respectively), but his offensive rating actually decreased from his freshman year (103.9 to 96.4). He struggled to be as efficient a player in his sophomore year, and his efficiency was hurt by a vast dip in true shooting percentage (48.8% after being 54.4% his freshman year) as well as offensive rebounding rate (8.0% after being 9.4% his freshman year). With a high usage rate (28.2 his sophomore year) and high shot rates (31.3), Melvin seemed to be the kind of high-volume shooter that didn't necessarily make his teams better (as evidenced by their 12-19 record his sophomore year).

Melvin did slowly become more efficient as he gained more collegiate experience. In his junior season, his offensive rating jumped to 100.6 (points per 100 possessions) as did his true shooting to 52.1%, and his senior campaign through 21 games looked to be a sign of him putting it all together. While he wasn't averaging a tremendous amount more points per game his senior year (16.7 to 16.6 his junior year), his rating was better than ever (111.2) as was his true shooting (55.8%) and 3-point percentage (47.5%; it didn't touch the 30% mark in his first 3 years). And, he was doing this while shooting less (28.9 percent), and becoming a little more committed on defense, as evidenced by his 5.8 block percentage, which matched his previous freshman season high. Furthermore, Melvin started to shed the "good player who doesn't make his team better" label over the course of his senior year being a key contributor in big wins over Oregon State (23 points, 154 offensive rating in 36 minutes) and Butler (30 points, 123 offensive rating). Before his suspension, the Blue Demons were 10-13. After it, they went 2-11 down the stretch.

How did Melvin get to the D-League?

After the Demons' Jan 20th loss to Xavier, Melvin was suspended indefinitely by the team for a violation of team rules. Now, while Purnell didn't disclose what violations Melvin committed, it was obvious that he was not going to join the team for the remainder of the year, so he left the school knowing that his career was ultimately finished at DePaul. (Some people in DePaul circles claimed the violation was extremely serious, but I am not going to recognize that as the truth for his suspension unless it is verified by a legitimate source).

A senior and out of options, Melvin decided to join the Bayhawks in the stretch run of the D-League season. Considering his team never garnered much positive national attention in his timer there, and seeing the precedent being done by Glen Rice, Jr. last year after he was suspended by Georgia Tech, Melvin entered the D-League hoping to somehow rebound his stock a bit in preparation for the NBA Draft.

So how did Melvin do in the D-League?

In a limited 10-game sample, Melvin held his own as fresh-out-of-college player trying to fit in on a team of professionals near the end of the season. Keith Schlosser of Ridiculous Upside noted in a post about Melvin that he felt Melvin made a strong impression in his short sample in the D-League.
After playing well at DePaul, the young gun displayed an ability to hold his own early on against already present professional and/or current NBA players while in the D-League. In addition to simply holding his own in the minor league (which should be considered an accomplishment in itself at this point in his career), Melvin actually looked somewhat polished for a player his age.He might not be getting as much exposure as some of his fellow minor league counterparts, but there's no denying that Melvin's progress on the basketball court as of late proves he'd be an intriguing player to take a chance on in next month's rookie draft.

Melvin's general stats don't jump out at you: 11.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg in 21.3 mpg. However, his advanced numbers look better, as evidenced by the chart below:

As you can see, Melvin was by no means the centerpiece of the Bayhawks offense (expected considering his late arrival to the squad), but he proved to be an efficient scorer (56.9 TS%) despite not getting a heavy amount of possessions (20.3 usage rate). Melvin impressed teams by using his length and athleticism to cut to the basket and finish at the rim for easy buckets (65.3 % field goals made off of assists). He didn't exactly show that he could dominate with the ball to score, (34.7% fgm unassisted), but with his skill set he may not need to. Teams will not be looking for Melvin to carry a team but to be a complimentary piece, and judging by his efficiency (111.7 offensive rating) and ability to play off the ball, Melvin could satisfy that complimentary scoring role off the bench for a NBA squad.

While Melvin improved as a shooter in his time at DePaul, he remained mostly around the rim in his time with Erie. Take a look at his shot chart from his 10 game sample with the Bayhawks.

As you can see, 65 of of his 90 field goal attempts came from around the rim (72.2 percent). So, Melvin didn't really test his shooting much in the D-League. But when he did shoot outside, especially in the mid-range, he proved he could reliably knock down the jumper. While he may primarily be an around the rim player, cutting to bucket off of pick and rolls and give and go's, Melvin displayed the ability (judging from the green areas on the mid-range) that he can take advantage of defenders sagging and not respecting him around the perimeter. Take a look at his highlight video below and see how Melvin hurt teams in a multitude of areas around the rim and even from inside the arc:

The biggest issue with Melvin is that while he has showed strong abilities as a scorer both inside and outside, he isn't as committed on the rebounding or defensive end. His rebounding rates with Erie remained meager for an athletic player of his size as he only posted an offensive rebounding rate of 6.9% and defensive rebounding rate of 12.8%. Even at DePaul, his rebounding rates weren't impressive either, as his offensive rebounding rate was only 8.4% and his defensive rebounding rate was 14.9%. Considering his build and speed for his size, Melvin needs to be a guy that can crash the boards to be successful at the next level. By doing so, not only will he make himself more valuable to NBA teams for his ability to do so, but he will also help himself in terms of getting easy second chance points at the rim (only 4.6 2nd chance points per 100 possessions last year with Erie).

Defensively, the biggest problem with Melvin at times is he seemed to be hesitant in his decision making. Due to his position on the wing, he was often in flux in terms of when to help and when to stay on the wing on plays that involved the pick and roll or opponents driving or slashing to the rim. Take a look at this possession against the Maine Red Claws.

Melvin is on the left wing, slightly sagging off his man, seeing that the pick and roll is going to be run with Maine guard Abdul Gaddy and center Zeke Marshall. It is this kind of awareness that works in Melvin's favor. He knows the pick and roll is coming, and he knows it's going to attack in his direction. He is putting himself in good position to see how it develops, and react accordingly depending on what Gaddy and Marshall do.

As expected, Marshall rolls and is open after setting the pick. While a majority of the fault has to be placed on the two Erie defenders, it is important to pay attention to Melvin here. Right now, Melvin's hesitation prevents him from making a spectacular defensive play. He recognizes that Marshall is open on the roll, but he instead tries to play halfway respecting his man beyond the arc, and Marshall down low. If you watch the film, he kind of goes back and forth shuffling between the two unsure who to stay on. Instead of properly guarding either, he guards neither. Gaddy is able to thread the needle to Marshall (by Melvin who tries to contest the pass, but his hesitation leads to him whiffing on that) which results in the easy dunk as shown below.

His defensive ability will be a big factor in determining Melvin's future at the next level. He has improved his offensive skills to make himself able to score on all areas of the floor. But Melvin seems to lack motor in the more physical part of the game. He doesn't really have a killer instinct on the glass, and while he can make the spectacular block at times, he does show too much hesitation on the defensive end to have an impact. It is in these areas where Melvin profiles more like a poor-man's Anthony Randolph than Corey Brewer: Melvin has a lot of the tools and abilities to be successful, but his lack of energy and effort in areas other than scoring the basketball makes one wonder if Melvin will have much of a NBA career. Randolph can get away with it because he's 6'11 with freakish wing span. Melvin doesn't have those measurements, which makes his style of play less tolerable with NBA GMs and coaching staffs.

But, Melvin has developed a lot since his time at DePaul. DraftExpress in 2011 called him a "6'7 center non-prospect" and he has come a long way to show that he can be an effective small forward or small ball forward type. The positives of Melvin's game is that he doesn't force the issue offensively: he plays a polished kind of game where he lets his offense come to him. He's apt to set good ball screens and cuts well to the basket off those screens for easy buckets. Out of all the D-League "longshots" beyond PJ Hairston and Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Melvin has the best shot of getting drafted and making a NBA team because he's the most polished D-League eligible player available (other than the two listed above) and showed the most growth as a player since arriving as a freshman at DePaul. It'll be interesting to see if a team will see that and give him a chance, even if the rebounding and defensive energy and effort still need some work.

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