If you just looked at the stat sheet you’d rightfully think Melli had one of his typical games this season. He missed six of seven 3-point shots, let up some offensive rebounds and his defense wasn’t always great.
But Melli was a +18 overall and his energy was a factor in the Pelicans’ big comeback in the second half.
With Steven Adams out with injury and J.J. Redick ejected for some reason, Stan Van Gundy didn’t have much choice but to turn to Melli, who came into the game with a ton of energy that seemed to be infectious.
Look, Melli wasn’t great and no one is saying he was, but on a team where hustle and effort are not a given, it was nice to see him earn some run with his energy.
The truth is the New Orleans Pelicans have desperately needed someone on their bench to step up, so maybe this game can be a start for Melli.
New Orleans Pelicans: Nicolo Melli is more important than you think
The Pelicans have struggled to shoot the 3-point shot this season and Melli has been part of that.
He had bricked his way out of the rotation and before last night, had been racking up the DNP’s. That still may be the case when Adams returns, as Willy Hernangomez has played well off the bench and has earned a spot in the rotation.
But the Pels need what Melli can theoretically do, which is provide some floor spacing around Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram.
Melli didn’t provide any of that last night, though the one shot he did make was a big one. Hustle alone is not going to get Melli back into the rotation, so he will have to hit shots if he wants to continue to get playing time once Adams returns.
But for one night at least, his energy and hustle plays were enough, as he came up with two big steals and a nice defensive play against Daniel Theis at the rim late in the game.
I have been one of Melli’s biggest detractors so I am not at all ready to say that he has turned the corner, but SVG will reward guys who play hard, and if Melli can continue to do that while knocking down some shots (big if) then he might be able to work his way back into the rotation.