2015-16 Pistons Profile: Jodie Meeks
NBA EXPERIENCE: 7 seasons
BECAME A PISTON: The Pistons signed Jodie Meeks as a free agent, coming to an agreement with him on the opening day of free agency, July 1, 2014.
CAREER MILESTONES: Meeks chose to enter the 2009 NBA draft following a junior season at Kentucky in which he averaged 23.7 points per game for the Wildcats. He was drafted 41st overall by Milwaukee. Meeks was traded midway through his rookie season to Philadelphia and became a starter for the 76ers in his second season. He signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Lakers after two years with Philadelphia and had a career year in his second season with the Lakers, averaging 15.7 points and shooting 40 percent from the 3-point line while starting 70 games at shooting guard when Kobe Bryant was limited to six games by injury. He was Van Gundy’s first pursued target in his first off-season as Pistons president of basketball operations.
CAREER ARC: The biggest issue Meeks faces as he enters his third season with the Pistons is staying healthy. He missed the first 22 games of 2014-15 after suffering a stress fracture in his lower back during the preseason. In the 2015-16 home opener, the season’s second game, Meeks suffered a foot fracture that kept him out until early March, when he returned only to injure his shoulder in practice. Meeks didn’t play again until the regular-season finale. Until joining the Pistons, Meeks hadn’t suffered anything close to a serious injury in five NBA seasons.
SEASON HIGHLIGHTS: Meeks scored one basket in a season-opening road win against the Hawks in his native Georgia, then got hurt shortly after entering the game the following night when the Pistons hosted Utah. He didn’t play again until Game 82 when both Cleveland and the Pistons – destined to face each other in the first round of the playoffs – rested all five starters. It might have been a game of little meaning in the big picture, but it served to remind everyone why Stan Van Gundy pursued Meeks in free agency and why he designed his second-unit offense around his ability to score in catch-and-shoot situations and to utilize screens. In 27 minutes, Meeks hit 4 of 9 3-point shots and scored 20 points. Meeks also has a knack for drawing fouls when he puts the ball on the floor and displays a fine touch on runners from anywhere inside of 15 feet.
2016-17 ROLE: It remains to be seen how heavily the Pistons will count on Meeks after going through essentially an entire season without him and with so many options at his position. Stan Van Gundy trusted Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Marcus Morris enough that both were among the league leaders in minutes played this season and Stanley Johnson, assuming expected progression takes place, should be in line for an expanded role as the primary backup to both Caldwell-Pope and Morris. The Pistons also have two other promising young players, Reggie Bullock and Darrun Hilliard, best suited to play shooting guard. None of them possess Meeks’ proven NBA scoring ability or ease with the critical role of primary off-the-bench scorer, though. If Meeks remains on the roster and comes to training camp in full health, it’s very possible he’ll resume the role Van Gundy imagined for him going into 2015-16.
CONTRACT STATUS: Meeks signed a three-year contract with the Pistons in 2014. He’s entering the final year of that deal. Given the depth at the position and the general ease with which contracts of short duration can be moved, it would be no surprise if Meeks winds up being traded.