The Jodie Meeks Conundrum | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

The Jodie Meeks Conundrum

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Updated: September 13, 2018

John Wall, Jodie Meeks

When the 2017 NBA Free Agency period began, news broke that the Washington Wizards had inked Jodie Meeks to a two-year, $7 million deal. The signing of the 6’5″ veteran shooting guard to a relatively low-end contract seemed innocuous, but it immediately raised several red flags.

Meeks was coming off three injury-plagued seasons and he played just 99 games during that span. The demand for his services appeared non-existent, and the Wizards decision to lock him up early, instead of waiting the market out for a similar or better player on a more team friendly cap number, was puzzling. The patient approach weeks later allowed the Wizards to sign Mike Scott on a one-year minimum contract, which ended up being the most cost-efficient personnel move of last summer.

The rush to sign Meeks was compounded by the surprising decision to give him a player option on the second year. Option years in the NBA always benefit the party who holds it. If the player has the option and under-performs, he will exercise the option, much to the dismay of the team. If the team has the option and the player excels, the front office will keep the player on a team-friendly deal.

One of the many impressive accomplishments of John Wall’s professional tenure in DC is his elite ability to create open shots for teammates. Trevor Ariza, Martell Webster, Rasual Butler (RIP), Paul Pierce, Cartier Martin, and Bojan Bogdanovic all found success (and often financial reward) by running with Optimus Dime.

Meeks fit that bill as well on the surface. His defining characteristic in the league was being a solid spot-up shooter. Washington needed veteran shooting and any veteran leadership he could provide would also be beneficial. Being a Kentucky guy like John Wall certainly couldn’t hurt either.

The potential upside was Meeks becoming a long range threat for Coach Scott Brooks, providing scoring punch on the second unit and closing out games with the starters when he was filling it up on certain nights. The financial risk was low at $3.5 million for the 2017-18 campaign. The downside was Meeks flaming out, exercising his 2018-19 option, and the Wizards being stuck with his salary for an additional year. Although the cap hit figured to be low, every dollar was important considering the Wizards organization was deep in the luxury tax and had scary balance sheets for the foreseeable future. Of course, we know which outcome transpired: disaster.

Not only did Meeks offer little on the court as a Wizard, his season-defining moments were his agent publicly floating a trade demand and getting popped for performance enhancing drugs.

Epic disaster.

His injury history wasn’t the culprit. His inability to knock down shots was. Here are Meeks stats from last season:

Meeks began the season cold from the field, going month-long stretches with anemic shooting percentages, and he never consistently found the range.

Since Meeks isn’t an effective creator or an adept ball handler, his defensive liabilities became an issue when he couldn’t balance them out by drilling threes.

While it became painfully apparent that Meeks should be buried on the bench, Brooks kept him in the rotation for the first four months of the season. Brooks did something similar with Marcus Thornton, Trey Burke, and Tim Frazier, hoping those players would turn it around at some point, but his optimism was never rewarded.

Wizards fans began to sour on the Meeks experiment, and then this actually happened:

The initial reaction was hold up, Meeks has a camp?!? The guy who can’t guard anyone and fails at the only thing that keeps him employed in the NBA now wanted out of Washington? The mockery wrote itself.

Predictably, Meeks trade demand fell on deaf ears. The only Meeks-related positive memory from last season was him hitting this big three-pointer against Boston.

Meeks finished the season in an otherwise forgettable fashion by getting himself suspended 25  games for violating the NBA’s drug policy and was unavailable for the six postseason contests. Such a fitting way for Meeks’ underwhelming season to conclude.

During the Washington Capitals championship celebration on the Mall, I received an ESPN alert that…wait for it…Meeks had opted into the second year of his contract. Well DUH. I can’t even enjoy a triumph of Monumental hockey stewardship without a small reminder of their struggling basketball operation.

Small positive pixels is that Washington will save money due to Meeks drug use. 

Meeks will be suspended for the first 19 games of next season, costing him $596,695. The Wizards can deduct half that amount from their team salary for luxury-tax calculations – which might keep Meeks from getting stretched.

Questions remain: How will Meeks’ teammates accept him back? Can he contribute at all? How does Brooks handle this? If Meeks is out of the rotation, will he pout and become a distraction?

If Meeks can shed his cold shooting from last year and stay drug-free after the suspension, and morph into a consistent bench performer, then last year’s disappointment could be forgiven. But if not, his signing will be just another entry in the long list of free agent disappointments for the Wizards. 

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Adam McGinnis
Reporter / Writer / Media at TAI
Adam is a bro from the Midwest who's been bopping around the District of Columbia for years. He's down with a range of sports, etc. and has covered the Washington Wizards for TAI since 2010.