Advertisement


NBA Draft

The Long Road Ahead For Melo Trimble

on

All things considered, Melo Trimble is an incredibly accomplished college basketball player, but he’s currently faced with an uphill battle to make the NBA. One year after Trimble attended the Combine, pulled out after middling results and returned for his junior year at Maryland, not a whole lot has changed for the point guard, but he’s still chasing his dreams of playing professionally.

In 2016-17, Trimble led the Terrapins in scoring for the third straight season by posting 16.8 points per game, an average good enough for the fourth-best mark in the Big Ten. Trimble tallied 1,658 points in his collegiate career, placing him thirteenth in school history, and helped Maryland reach the NCAA tournament in every year he was there. So, why is Trimble not currently projected in any of the major mock drafts?

After his rough outing at the combine last year, Trimble tumbled out of mock drafts and he was advised to return to school. If Trimble could bounce back, hit his jump shot at a more consistent clip and defend a bit better, his former first round status could potentially be restored. While Trimble ultimately saw his points per game mark grow from 14.8 to 16.8, he averaged an assist less every contest and his shooting percentages only nominally improved. And without the month of March to interview on the big stage as Maryland flamed out in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Trimble was already at a disadvantage heading into combine season.

Even worse, he’s a year older, now checking into his pre-draft workouts at 22 years-old. In today’s NBA landscape, without impressive measurables or diamond-in-the-rough potential, players that much older are lottery tickets many general managers just aren’t buying these days. Certainly, there are some shortcomings in Trimble’s game — he’s prone to overdribbling and his defense has never been game-changing — but he’s coming off an All-Big Ten first-team selection and is now searching for answers before June’s draft.

General managers’ jobs (and overarching legacies) depend on them unearthing a prodigal superstar, not another serviceable role player. Since the emergence of players like Kristaps Porzingis and Giannis Antetokounmpo, two relatively unknown entities headed into the draft, the league has obsessed over finding the next big thing. Which is why prospects like Terrance Ferguson, who averaged just 4.6 points in 15 minutes per game for the Adelaide 36ers in 2016-17, is a near lock for the first round come June. According to scouts, Ferguson has elite potential as a defender and a three-point shooter, so, at the age of just 18, onlookers have started to drool.

Of the thirty players selected in last year’s first round, only eight of them were not freshman, sophomores or overseas prospects. Unfortunately, franchises aren’t willing to pass up a scratch ticket in order to draft a player that may have already hit his ceiling, for better or for worse.

And now, it’s why Trimble finds himself on the outside looking in despite another generally well-received season at Maryland. Trimble slipped from a potential first round selection to a mid-second rounder and then out entirely last season after an underwhelming combine showing. Thursday, Trimble cited that his pre-draft confusion derailed his audition in 2016.

“During the process, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” Trimble said. “I just learned that I wasn’t prepared for the mental stage. I wasn’t strong-minded and wasn’t ready for criticism. I was young and I was still deciding whether I wanted to go back to not.

“I was just confused on what I wanted to do and I brought that negative energy when I was here.”

For Trimble, his second-time declaration for the draft may have hurt him in the long run. Trimble has since said that his focus on exams factored into that poor combine showing — and why he’s currently put academics on hold leading up to the draft — but the damage may already be done. Undoubtedly, his decision to return to Maryland to re-raise his draft standing hasn’t worked out, but it’s hard to believe that Trimble may not be selected at all.

Still, there’s plenty of precedence for older drafted players succeeding in the NBA, looking back no further than last year’s draft. Malcolm Brogdon was the No. 36 overall selection in 2016, falling to the second round despite being named the ACC Player of the Year, NABC Defensive Player of the Year and a Consensus All-American. Brogdon turned 24 years old in December, but by that point, he was well on his way to a successful, playoff-bound campaign for the Milwaukee Bucks and emerged as a frontrunner for Rookie of the Year honors.

Certainly, defensive chops made Brogdon a far more NBA-ready fit than Trimble’s current resume, but there’s always room for talented scorers in this league as well.

Of course, Trimble’s professional dreams won’t die if he name isn’t called on June 22 — no, not by a longshot. Trimble’s creative abilities would make him an exciting talent to follow in the D-League or, as always, Europe could beckon. In an interview with Glenn Clark in early May, Trimble noted that he’d be more than willing to spend time in the D-League if it meant reaching the NBA someday.

“A lot of people are saying I’m going straight to the D-League or overseas, but I look at it as a good thing for me to get better,” Trimble said. “Obviously, [it would mean] I’m not ready, and I had an opportunity to get ready to hopefully have a chance to be in the NBA.”

Fortunately for Trimble, his saving grace may come in the form of the NBA’s newly-introduced two-way contracts. As per the new CBA, teams will have roster spots for a 16th and 17th man, specifically created for those that will frequently traverse between the NBA and the D-League. For a franchise that sees potential in Trimble, the two-way contract could be a way to get his foot in the door, whether that comes through the draft or a summer league opportunity.

Trimble struggled in his 5-on-5 scrimmage at the combine yesterday, outplayed by his competitors and then forced some bad turnovers as a result. His two points on 0-for-5 from the field and five turnovers were a worst-case scenario for Trimble, as projected second rounder Monte Morris gave him trouble all afternoon. Without the big-time measurables or enticing age of his fellow draftees, Trimble will need to play far better in Friday’s 5-on-5 if he wants any chance of getting outright selected this summer.

Additionally, Trimble was asked if he had any workouts or interviews lined up yet. For now, Trimble has workouts scheduled with the Philadelphia 76ers and the Chicago Bulls — who certainly could have used a more poised point guard against Boston a few weeks ago — and said that he’s already chatted with members from the Washington Wizards.

Much can change in one year’s time, but for Trimble, it’s sadly been more of the same at the combine. It’s looking increasingly likely that Trimble will need to take an unconventional route to the NBA — but that’s more than OK with him. Although Trimble could have returned for his senior year, he knows that this is his best shot of making it professionally.

After signing with an agent, there’s no turning back now. One way or another, Trimble will likely get his shot at the NBA, just expect it to come via the road less traveled.

Make sure to follow Basketball Insiders on Twitter at @BBallInsiders.

About Benny Nadeau

Benny Nadeau

Benny Nadeau is a Boston-based writer in his first year with Basketball Insiders. For the last five seasons, he covered the Brooklyn Nets for The Brooklyn Game.