We're now three games into the Jodie Meeks era and the early returns certainly look positive. In two of three games, Meeks has caught fire from distance in the first quarter, setting the tone for the game. But, as Derek Bodner noted on Twitter and GoSixers mentioned in the comments here, he isn't really contributing in any other area. The question is, does that matter?
The short answer is that yes, it does matter. Obviously, if Meeks was handing out assists and grabbing boards it would be better for the team. But the analysis can't just end there. We have to weigh what Meeks is bringing to the team - both in hard numbers and in more heady "spreading the floor" terms - against what he is lacking in the ancillary (or non-scoring) portion of the game. Then, once we gauge how much Meeks' scoring can help, we need to take into account who he's sharing the floor with - especially on the perimeter - and how their strengths mask some of his weaknesses, and vice versa.
As a starter, Meeks has used roughly 41 possessions (32 shots, 6 turnovers, 6 free throw attempts) to score 51 points. That translates into 124.39 points over 100 possessions. His true shooting percentage is even better, at 0.736. Those numbers are beyond outstanding, they're also wholly unsustainable. Meeks isn't going to be this good with regularity, it's basically impossible. He's on a tremendous hot streak right now, but what happens when he goes cold? Or what happens when he settles into whatever his normal range is with this group, in this role?
I mean, doesn't this sound like a familiar story, a somewhat undersized shooting guard who can get hot for stretches and hit a bunch of jumpers, but doesn't contribute anything in the other areas of the game. If he's hot, he helps you. If he's not, he kills you? Are we getting excited over a younger version of Willie Green? No, I don't think so.
The Willie Green hot streak was a myth, for the most part. When Willie was hitting his jumper, he'd come out and score 10 points in a quarter on 8 or 9 shots. By the time the game was over, he'd probably have maybe 14 points on 14 shots, and he'd wind up shooting 50% from the floor and everyone would be impressed that he shot such a high percentage. Willie never did anything to augment his shooting. By that I mean, he didn't get to the line and he didn't hit threes. If he shot 50%, he wasn't helping the offense overall. Even when his jumper was falling, even when he was hitting half of them, the team was still treading water. Hot Willie wasn't carrying anything. When Meeks gets hot, he's hitting from deep and he's getting you three points per possession.
Meeks has the ability to hit multiple threes in a quarter. When Meeks gets hot, the defense you're playing on the other end doesn't even matter. If they're getting two points per possession and you're getting three, you're winning. Not to mention the fact that when Meeks is on fire from three, the other team has to pay attention, they have to make adjustments. When Willie's 20-footer was dropping, teams really wouldn't care. A Green 20-footer is exactly the shot the other team wants you to take. They aren't going to double Willie to get the ball out of his hands, and they aren't going to hesitate to leave Willie to double someone else when they know the worst-case scenario is a 20-footer from Willie. When Meeks gets hot, he's hurting the other team when he makes shots and he's hurting them when they have to account for him to stop him from making shots. It's a trickle-down effect on the entire offense.
A hot Jodie (which sounds extremely dirty) can not only carry an offense, but can really blow the game wide open. That type of dominant stretch isn't something we see very often from Jrue and Iguodala, who tend to pick their spots on offense. Even when those guys get hot, they still have other responsibilities on the floor that sometimes keep them from carrying the team. Jodie has, and hopefully will continue, to be the guy they can go to at every opportunity to keep his hot streak alive.
And now we come full circle. Does it matter if Jodie doesn't board or make plays for others? Well, when he's hot, I don't think it's an issue. Jrue and Iguodala combine to average 10.4 rebounds and 12.5 assists per game. They both do more than their share, and combined, they can cover for a third back court player who's a non-factor in those areas, provided this third player is providing something they aren't. In this case, scoring and plenty of it. Having Jrue and Iguodala is an absolute luxury that most team's don't have. They are such well-rounded players that it allows you to hide a specialist between them, on both ends of the floor. Jodie is slotting into that spot quite well right now.
We've now spent over 800 words talking about why it works and how it works, but there is a flip side to the coin. What happens when Hot Jodie turns into Cold Jodie? Well, first of all, we need to hope that Cold Jodie has enough sense not to act like Cold Willie used to. If he isn't hitting shots, he can't keep gunning. This is on Meeks himself, to a point, but it's really on Collins. When Jodie isn't hitting to the point where he's missing a bunch of shots and/or the opposing team isn't accounting for him on the perimeter, he's outlived his usefulness. Willie would keep gunning, keep eating up empty possessions in the hopes that he'd shoot himself out of it. In the meantime, he'd be killing you on both ends of the floor and doing absolutely nothing to mitigate the damage. The key here is for Collins to be able to identify which version of Jodie he's got early on, and adjust properly, because cold Jodie, even if he stop shooting (which Willie Green never would), just doesn't give you enough without the scoring. They're better off upgrading the defense early (by going to Turner), or going with a different scoring option (by going big with Thad at the three, or staying small and putting Lou at the two).
It's going to be a juggling act once Meeks settles into whatever he ultimately becomes, but the last thing you want to do is pin your hopes on Jodie's shooting touch for the first quarter of every game. Welcome Hot Jodie with open arms and ride him for all he's worth, but always be prepared for plan B is Cold Jodie shows up.
It goes something like this:
- Hot Jodie can carry you
- Hot Willie will help you tread water
- Cold Jodie might kill you
- Cold Willie will kill you
- Playing with Jrue and Iguodala makes Hot Jodie an asset, no matter what his drawbacks would be on a team with less talented perimeter players.
Thoughts in the comments, as usual.