Jodie Meeks — 2017-18 Wizards Player Preview | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Jodie Meeks — 2017-18 Wizards Player Preview

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Updated: September 29, 2017

You never know when an injury is going to have a permanent impact on a player.

Derrick Rose, coming off his 2010-11 MVP season, played in 39 of 66 games in 2011-12. He missed all 82 games in 2012-13, played in just 10 games in 2013-14, then made it up to 51 games in 2014-15. You didn’t know what to expect from Rose by the time the 2014 season began, having played in just 49 games over that three-year stretch. And what you got was a broken-down former MVP who is now on his third team in three years.

Although Rose avoided the wear-and-tear of three NBA seasons while he was sitting on the bench recovering, his body had paid a prise. Rose was a spry 22-year-old athletic wonder in his MVP season, but the next time he crossed the 40-game threshold, he was 26 and had barely dunked in three years. Even a non-athlete’s body does not feel the same at 26 as it does at 22. Professional athletes, who are infinitely more in tune with their bodies than the average human, notice a far more pronounced difference, especially when that body has spent its first two decades working toward physical perfection–only to spend the next three years anchored to a training table.

Jodie Meeks was never the All-Star player Derrick Rose was, and his injury history is not quite as extensive but he had a similar three-year stretch of missed games.

Following a breakout season with the Los Angeles Lakers in which he averaged 15.7 points per game on 46.3% shooting, including 40.1% on more than 5 attempts per game from behind the arc, the former Kentucky Wildcat signed a three-year, $20 million deal with the Detroit Pistons in the summer of 2014. Meeks missed the start of his Pistons career with a lower back injury, but he returned to play the final 60 games of the season.

Meeks then broke his foot in the second game of the following season, returned to put up 20 points in the season finale, then played just two minutes of a four-game sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers. He missed the first 19 games of the 2016-17 season, at this point as a member of the Orlando Magic, after having a second surgery on that foot, returned to play 24 games, dislocated his thumb and missed two months, then finished out the season with the team.

In total, that’s 99 games played (and just 10 starts) over the past three seasons, not including his two minutes of action in a postseason loss. The last time Meeks missed fewer than 20 games in a season, he was 26 years old. He is now 30.

Meeks’s injury history raises a similar question about how players respond to what is effectively a multi-year layoff. Meeks was a proven shooter when he was last healthy, but the last time he was fully healthy for an entire season, he was a) 26 and b) enjoying the best season of his career. Had he avoided injury, he may have continued his upward trajectory and became a fringe All-Star or if he would have regressed back to role-player status.

Peak Meeks

Let’s look at that 2013-14 season Meeks had with the Lakers. He had five games in which he scored 25 or more points, including a career-high 42.

He has topped the 25-point mark just once since (December 2014), and he had done so just four times prior to the 2013-14 season. Put another way, Meeks had five 25-point games in that one season, and five 25-point games in his other seven NBA seasons combined. Meeks had six games in his breakout season in which he drained at least five 3-pointers. In his other seven seasons combined, he has 14 such games, only one of which has come since 2014.

The 2013-14 season remains his high-water mark for points, rebounds, assists, total field goals made and attempted, 3-pointers made and attempted, and minutes. He started 70 games and appeared in 77 for the Lakers, who went 27-55 while Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash missed virtually the entire season.

Who He Is

Jodie Meeks is not exclusively a catch-and-shoot guy.  The video above shows a few examples of him taking his man to the basket for a layup, but most of those drives came as a result of a defender over-committing to a teammate. Meeks’ best move is a single pump fake followed by a drive straight to the hoop. Not too exciting, but it works.

The reason it works, and alas, the reason Meeks has made a nice living in the NBA for nearly a decade, is because of the lightning-fast release on his jumper. The entire shot is a masterpiece, with every muscle working in perfect harmony—every catch-and-shoot jump shot he takes looks exactly like the previous one—but the quick release is the piece de resistance. Defenders bite on the shot fake because he doesn’t give them any time to close out if they hesitate.

And though Meeks does get to the hoop on occasion, catch-and-shoot is still his bread and butter.

In 2014-15, more than 77% of all of his field goals came within two seconds of touching the ball—he had an eFG% of 51.1% on such shots. Last season, that number was up to nearly 84%, with an eFG% of 51.4%. Now imagine what those numbers will look like when he shares the court with John Wall.

During the Washington Wizards Media Day, Meeks told Truth About It that Wall was a big reason why he chose to come to Washington. “It was a big factor,” Meeks said. “Playing against John the past eight years, I’ve seen him find shooters. Whether it be Nick Young or different people … so me being a shooter, it was encouraging for me to come here. Also, the Kentucky connection.”

In 2016-17, 43.3% of Meeks’ shots were catch-and-shoot 3s, more than double the frequency of any other shot he took. He shot 43.1% on those. In 2014-15, his most frequent shot again was the catch-and-shoot 3; that shot represented 30.8% of all his shots, and he hit them at a 36% clip.

“I don’t really look at that stuff,” Meeks said of analytics at Media Day. “I just feel like if I’m open, I’m gonna shoot it. I’ll let you guys think about and study that. As players, we just focus on making any type of shot we have.”

The primary point guard Meeks played with last year was Elfrid Payton—he played 423 minutes with Payton and 258 minutes with D.J. Augustin. Those two combined to dish out 738 assists for the season. John Wall finished last season with 831 assists, by himself.

With that knowledge in hand, consider this: 92.9% of Meeks’ 3-pointers were assisted last season. No offense to Payton and Augustin, but Wall is going to create shots for Meeks that he’s never seen before.

I mean, the primary point guard for Meeks’ career year with Los Angeles was Kendall Marshall, after all. Kendall Marshall! Meeks drained 162 3-pointers on a team in which Kendall Goddamn Marshall started 45 games at point guard! Then he went to Detroit where he had to beg Reggie Jackson for the ball, essentially took a year off, then played with Payton and Augustin.

And now he gets a gift from the basketball gods: John Wall.

Two other notes about Meeks:

  1. He’s one of the best free-throw shooters in the league. He’s shot at least 85% from the line in each season since he was a rookie, and the last time he played enough games to qualify, he shot 90.6% and finished second overall behind Steph Curry.
  2. He’s surprisingly fast, which further enhances his fit with Wall, but he doesn’t have much lateral quickness. As a result, he gets beat off the dribble frequently.

Because of that first note, you might see a lot of Meeks in late-game situations, especially when Washington has a slim lead. But because of that second note, don’t expect him to solve the defensive woes the Wizards’ bench has endured for years.

If he can stay on the court, it’s hard not to like this fit. He’ll run the break and drain 3s with Wall when they share the floor, and he’ll be the bench’s best default option when the shot clock is running low and the offense is stalling. But, you know, there’s that one caveat — staying healthy.

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Bryan Frantz
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Bryan is a D.C. native with a degree in something or other from UNC. He has important, interesting hobbies, but mostly he just weeps over D.C. sports teams. You can find him on the Metro, inevitably complaining about Red Line delays.