Jodie Meeks will enter this offseason coming off by far the best season of his career. This offseason also will give Jodie his first real shot at hitting free agency. Two seasons ago, Meeks signed on with the Lakers for a 2-year $4 million contract. Meeks had shown some promise during his time with the 76ers, but had also been traded by the team who drafted him, the Milwaukee Bucks. When Meeks came to the Lakers, he was thought to be a viable backup for Kobe, who doubled as a three point marksman. His first season proved to be a struggle as the team and Meeks personally struggled on the court.
This season was completely divergent from his first season’s impression. Meeks came into this season with fans questioning his worth and his playing time. But what Meeks did for the Lakers this season was amazing. Meeks averaged 15.7 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.4 steals, and hit 2.1 threes per game on 40.1% shooting from beyond the arc. Meeks also managed to improve his shooting % from a dismal 38.7% to a very respectable 46.3%.
Contrary to what many in the national media believe, Meeks’ improvement wasn’t simply a case of “good numbers on a bad team.” The NBA’s Most Improved Player came out earlier this week, which was awarded to Phoenix Suns point guard Goran Dragic. With the voting for the NBA’s awards available to the public this year, it is clear the Lakers’ terrible season turned off voters from casting any sort of vote for Meeks. Jodie received one 2nd place vote from Bill Oram, a writer for the OC Register. Somehow, Patty Mills, the Spurs 18.9 minute per game point guard, managed to finish in the top-10 of Most Improved Player voting, by raising his scoring from 5.1 to 10.2 points. Surely, an admirable improvement, but nothing close to the leap Jodie made.
His improvement on fast breaks and transition offense was the most visible transformation. Last season, fans would yell at their television screens for Meeks to get rid of the ball and not waste another layup opportunity. This season Jodie attacked the rim with confidence and showed an ability to finish at the rim unlike anything Lakers’ fans had seen from him before. His defense was pesky as expected and helped him earn the status as the Lakers best defensive player (not that it was a major distinction).
Perhaps one of the best moments of the season came when Jodie dropped a career high 42 points on the Oklahoma City Thunder, leading the Lakers to the upset victory. The most impressive part of those 42 points? Meeks did it on only 18 field goal attempts.
Meeks is a team player and has expressed interest in returning to the Lakers. “I want to come back. We’ll have to see how the draft goes and free agency goes. I love playing here. It’s a packed house. I’ve been on teams where there’s like 2,000 people in the stands and that’s not fun.” Unlike his last deal, Meeks won’t be a cheap asset to retain. Players with his skillset tend to be in high demand in the NBA, particularly the new style of play which emphasizes three point shooting.
When asked about his time in LA, Meeks responded, ““It’s a little disappointing, especially the first year. I thought we’d at least go to the Western Conference Finals. This year we had a lot of injuries and I was able to expand my game. I showed what I could do. On a personal note, I feel like it was a good season. You don’t get any individual accolades. You have to win as a team.” Although Meeks may not have found the team success he was seeking, the Lakers certainly helped propel him to the career heights he has since reached. In a year of disappointments, Meeks was a bright spot.
Regardless of his future status with the team, Meeks has earned the respect of Lakers fans.