Several things have gone wrong for the Los Angeles Lakers this season, but Jodie Meeks is clearly not one of them.
The former Philadelphia 76er has been a solid contributor for the Purple and Gold and probably earned himself a good pay increase heading into next season. Meeks struggled last year amid the nightmarish campaign the Lakers suffered through, but he has since bounced back.
Meeks played in relief of Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash where he struggled. Mike Brown was reluctant to play the reserve because of his defensive shortcomings, and it stung Meeks.
The second-unit guard offered as much to Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times: "It's disappointing because everyone wants to play."
Brown was eventually fired, which opened up the door for Meeks to get more minutes. Mike D’Antoni has always favored the long ball, and that opened up the door for Meeks to get some court time.
And yet, he struggled. Between a clear lack of role definition on the team and injuries ravaging the roster, Meeks suffered as the team imploded.
Fast-forward to this season, and his situation has been reversed. Jodie Meeks has been given the green light to shoot the ball and is averaging a career high in field-goal attempts and points per game with the All-Star break approaching.
What’s more, Meeks is converting nearly 40 percent of his three-pointers and provides the Lakers with some occasional playmaking. Indeed, he has nearly doubled the amount of shot attempts taken in the pick-and-roll during 2013-14 when compared to last season, according to Synergy Sports (subscription required).
This is a clear indication that he has been given more opportunities to handle the ball and make plays for himself and his teammates. D’Antoni has entrusted him with additional responsibilities, and he has rewarded his faith.
The long-range shooter is one of the few success stories of this Lakers season, even though he does not necessarily feel as such. Meeks offered these thoughts to Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding: “I’m trying to do everything I can, personally,” Meeks said, “but it doesn’t mean anything if you’re not winning.”
Meeks is scheduled to become a free agent this summer, and after earning a mere $1.6 million this campaign per Sham Sports, he will likely see a big payday.
Danny Green and C.J. Miles have comparable numbers to Meeks when projected over 36 minutes per game, and yet, both earn more than their counterpart. Indeed, Green will pocket a total of $3.8 million by season’s end, while Miles will collect a cool $2.2 million during the same time frame.
One suspects that Meeks should be able to sign a three-year deal that averages out to roughly $3 million annually (average of both salaries). That should be an affordable figure for the Purple and Gold, but Los Angeles will have other priorities in the offseason.
The Lakers will be in the hunt for a star free agent, and they will have to renounce all of their players who are no longer under contract to accomplish this. By letting their players walk, the Lakers should have approximately $26 million in cap room.
L.A. will need to field a competitive team, and that starts with Kobe Bryant. The Lakers’ all-time leading scorer has dealt with an Achilles tear and knee fracture this season, and thus, Bryant could be hampered in the future.
However, in the event he shows enough over the second half of 2013-14, the Lakers will continue to build around him. One of the pieces the Lakers will need to bring back is Nick Young.
He has played the best basketball of his career in his first season with the Lakers, and as a result, the team will want him back to spell Bryant. The Lakers’ sixth man is a good ball-handler and streaky scorer. In addition, he can play point guard in a pinch and create a multitude of plays on the court.
That makes the player they call Swaggy P. a priority in LakerLand. Young has a $1.2 million player option that he can pick up to remain in Los Angeles, but it stands to reason he will instead opt for free agency.
The former Los Angeles Clippers player should be able to earn himself a deal resembling J.R. Smith’s (approximately $6 million per year), which takes them out of the Meeks sweepstakes.
The Lakers already have $23.5 million invested in the shooting guard position for next season, and re-signing Young probably brings the figure close to $30 million. Thus, bringing back Meeks appears to be out of the question since the Lakers will still have other needs to fill. Meeks is a good second-unit option, but ultimately, he is not the type of player for whom an organization overspends.