Aside from franchise cornerstones John Wall and Bradley Beal, depth at the guard position was the most glaring weakness on the Washington Wizards’ roster last season.
After allowing solid rotation players in Ramon Sessions and Garrett Temple to pursue opportunities with other franchises last summer, the team spent the entirety of the 2016-17 season searching for competent replacements. Forced into a three-man rotation of Wall, Beal, and Brandon Jennings during the playoffs, the Wizards entered this offseason looking for someone who can be the primary offensive option when its franchise cornerstones are on the bench. They exit it with Jodie Meeks.
A career 37 percent three point shooter, Meeks makes sense on paper. But after playing just 39 games in the last two seasons with the Pistons and Magic, can he take on the role the Wizards so desperately need him to fulfill? I chatted with Zach Oliver of Orlando Pinstriped Post and Sean Corp of Detroit Bad Boys to find out.
Jodie Meeks's time with the Magic was brief, but how did head coach Frank Vogel use him last year?
ZO: When healthy last season, Meeks was primarily used off the bench as a shooter. On a team that was, and still is, strapped for shooting, Meeks’ role was an important one. With inconsistent play from the reserve point guards, however, Meeks’ impact wasn’t as big as it could’ve been.
I know it's been a while since he wore a Pistons uniform, but how did the team use him during his time in Detroit?
SC: Meeks is mostly thought of as a three-point specialist, and he did plenty of that in Detroit. But what I think attracted Stan Van Gundy to Meeks was his affinity for running the floor and cutting to the basket. This was especially useful when a defender would run out to the corner to contest a three. Meeks was always willing to drive to the basket. In his one mostly healthy season in Detroit, Meeks attempted 39 percent of his field goals from 3, which was actually a career low. Because of his aggressiveness, he was still a plus offensive player despite it being a down year from 3 (shooting only 35 percent).
At this point in his career, how can Jodie Meeks help an NBA team?
ZO: As has been the case for most of his career, Meeks’ biggest attribute for a team is his shooting. He can knock it down in any way you can imagine. Off the dribble. Curling off a screen. Spotting up. You name it, Meeks will most likely be able to help you there.
He also brings a very solid veteran presence to a locker room, especially for a team that has a handful of young guys. He’s the kind of guy that you want on your bench, who can step in, give you shooting and a scoring lift when needed.
SC: Hypothetically, Meeks should be able to fully recover from the Jones fracture that has really limited him since after his first season in Detroit in 2014-15. But he lost the majority of the past two seasons to injury and recovery, and he is going to be pushing 30 years old. I'm not sure how much of his athleticism was taken from him, but the good news is that in Washington even if he is JUST a spot-up shooter and a willing driver when the moment calls for it, he will be super effective playing alongside John Wall, Bradley Beal and company.
What limitations to Jodie's game are keeping him from taking on a larger role? What issues will Scott Brooks have to solve in order to maximize his production?
ZO: The biggest issue Meeks has is his defense. It’s very inconsistent, and is overall a negative for his game. He’s not the biggest guard either, so he can get bullied by some of the bigger two guards the league has.
Scott Brooks is going to have to find a way to hide him some on the defensive end. If he can pair him with a solid defensive wing, and a center who can protect the rim some, his defensive limitations can be hidden some.
I think Meeks could also stand to have a solid playmaker next to him to set him up more. While he can do a little bit with the ball in his hands, he’s much more dangerous as a player running around screens and causing some havoc on the opposing defense.
SC: Meeks biggest limitation is as a defender. That is what has kept him relegated to mostly bench roles in his career the past five years. He doesn't have length or very good defensive intuition. At just 6-foot-4 he can be overpowered by a lot of shooting guards and he doesn't have the handle or vision to play point guard. Nobody is going to mistake him for anything but a floor spacing undersized wing. If I projected any possible issues for Scott Brooks it is that a bench backcourt of Tim Frazier and Jodie Meeks is awfully undersized. It might force him to stagger his rotation a bit.
It’s clear that Wizards are desperate for bench production. Can Jodie Meeks be the kind of player the Wizards need to get over the hump?
ZO: I don’t think Meeks is exactly the kind of player you can expect to push you over the edge. That being said, he is someone who can make an impact off the bench, and give some consistent production when needed. He can step up and start in a pinch, and will have a few games a year where he can’t miss.
Otherwise, you can expect a solid role player who’s going to knock down the three ball and give some guidance in the locker room.
SC: Jodie Meeks might be limited, but the good news is that his skill is extremely easy to fold in around other players. Meeks could be effective alongside John Wall, and he can be a floor spacing scoring threat while Ian Mahinmi and Kelly Oubre Jr. focus on defense. I'd say Meeks' production and the bench production in Washington is way more dependent on how confident the team is in the upgrade from Trey Burke and Brandon Jennings to Frazier. As long as Washington has a legitimate initiator and creator on the bench unit, Meeks can make himself fit into the gaps, at least on offense.