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Silas Melson has a role with this team next year

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There is room for the sophomore to improve.

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Silas Melson rolled into his expanded role with the Gonzaga Bulldogs with, shall we say, lackluster results this year.

And for that, often times, he was skewered. Whether or not the volume of criticism was right or wrong, the one fact was true: Melson struggled this year, for the most part.

The key part of saying "for the most part" is that Melson wasn't totally lost. Towards the middle of the season, after losing his starting job, he became Mark Few's junkyard dog. He was on the floor to eat up minutes, grab rebounds, dish out assists, and occasionally take the shot.

For the most part, Melson succeeds in that. One thing that helps is that he doesn't turn the ball over too often. He only averaged 1.2 turnovers per 40 minutes this season, tied with Kyle Dranginis for essentially lowest on the team. This is because the offense rarely ends with him or begins with him; it just flows through him.

During a key stretch, from Jan. 30 to Feb. 11, over six games, Melson posted ORtgs of over 110 in each game. He peaked with ORtg of 154 against San Francisco and 156 against Portland. Granted, in his role, his ORtg is always a bit inflated, because he isn't doing negative things such as turning the ball over, or taking an excessive amount of shots. But the fact of the matter is that during this time, when Melson attempted around five shots per game, he was an asset to the offense.

This is his role going forward. There have been comments on the Internet that seem to suggest that there is no role for Melson next year, which seems a bit preposterous. Right now, the Zags are losing almost 60 minutes of guard play per game through the departures of Dranginis and Eric McClellan.

Nigel Williams-Goss is rolling in and will be able to account for 30+ of those minutes. Zach Norvell is rolling in and I don't imagine him being able to account for the other 30 minutes. Next year, the Zags will have plenty of minutes to go around for their guard spots, and it is up to Melson to capitalize on them.

Melson was recruited to this school because he was a high-octane scorer. He has shown that ability to be lethal with his shot. Against SMU, he hit 4-of-5 three pointers. Against San Francisco, he was 5-of-9 from beyond the arc. Unfortunately, none of that has ever translated into consistency with Melson, and that is where his game needs to change.

Because, what Melson does do well is take up minutes. As un-sexy as that sounds, the Zags have a long and rich history of guys mopping up the floor for loose balls and somehow always being where they need to be. Dranginis has been that guy, and the Zags lost him to graduation. Melson demonstrated for a short window that he can be that guy, that as long as he quells his need to constantly shoot the ball, he is a perfect complimentary teammate.

That doesn't sound great--complimentary teammate, but that is also basketball. It is a team sport with five players on the court at any given time.

At the same time, Melson has displayed that potential before. Perhaps he is one of those players that just takes a bit more time to mature into his role. If Melson can take that innate ability to score, and turn it into a consistent ability to score, Melson's role is automatic, and it will correspond with an increased amount of minutes.

It is basically day one of the offseason, so there is plenty of opportunity to improve. There is nothing to suggest that Melson's mindset suggest any different, so let's hope his eventual hard work pays off.