Before the 2012-13 NBA Season, the Lakers signed Jodie Meeks to fill the role of backup shooting guard. Through Meeks’ first three seasons in the NBA, the 2nd round pick was known as a long range sharpshooter and solid defender. The thought was that Meeks would give the Lakers a three point threat they had been lacking, and a player with experience who could spell Kobe Bryant. What the Lakers ended up with was a mixed bag of up-and-down results.
Pre-All Star Break, Meeks played as advertised. He averaged 7.8 points, 1.6 three pointers on 37.6% from beyond the arc and 40.2% from the field in 17.6 minutes. Although the field goal % is low, it is almost identical to his career mark of 40.4%. Post-All Star break was a completely different story. Meeks averaged 8.2 points, 1.5 three pointers on 32.6%, and 36.4% from the field in 28 minutes. This type of split is the perfect example of why looking at Per/36 stats can’t be trusted as completely reliable. With the increase in playing time, it would have been expected for Meeks to see a substantial bump in his scoring. That clearly didn’t come to fruition, and his shooting percentages plummeted with the larger role.
Meeks also started 10 games for the Lakers, and saw similar dips in production to his pre- and post-All Star break splits. In 34.1 minutes as a starter, Meeks scored 7.7 points per game. In 19.4 minutes coming off the bench, he scored 8.0 points per game. Clearly Meeks felt more comfortable being coming off the bench and giving the Lakers a shot in the arm that way. When he was asked to start in place of Kobe, due to various injuries, he couldn’t handle the increased responsibility.
Overall, Meeks had a disappointing season for the Lakers. He shot below his career averages from both the field and beyond the arc. He struggled on fast breaks, as many Lakers fans remember Meeks solely for his missed opportunities on fast breaks, missing layups with only one defender to beat. Although he did show athleticism to finish at the rim, he was unable to fight through contact and get a good shot up. With Meeks now in a contract year, he needs to improve to earn a 2nd contract with Los Angeles.
So what can be expected of Jodie Meeks next season? For starters he will finally have some more stability and a role he is more comfortable in. Mike D’Antoni has stated he would like to expand the rotation to give his veterans much more rest than they got last season. Even with the additions of Wesley Johnson, Nick Young, and Jordan Farmar, Meeks should still be able to find 17-20 minutes in which he can contribute – the ideal situation for Meeks. Some of this comes down on Coach D’Antoni. This entire offseason I have preached for D’Antoni to put his players in the best position for them to succeed. Last season this wasn’t what happened, although not entirely his own fault. Meeks is the ideal player for D’Antoni’s system – he is fast, young, and can shoot the three ball at a high mark.
This season has potential to be a break out year for Meeks. His first season saw him traded from Milwaukee to Philadelphia, not an ideal situation for a first year pro. His 2nd and 3rd seasons saw him start for the majority of his time in Philadelphia, which clearly isn’t the best role for Meeks. Coming to LA, he saw coaching changes, rotation troubles, and role uncertainty. This season should remove all of that. D’Antoni will have an entire training camp to get the team where he wants it to be. Meeks should fit perfectly into the D’Antoni system, and should see the same bump in production that many similar players have seen under Mike D. The potential break out season won’t be 14 points per game – that just isn’t the type of player Meeks is, but it could mean he shoots 37-41% from beyond the arc. If Meeks can become that deadly from beyond the arc, the Lakers will be ecstatic at the production from their investment.