Shall Meeks Inherit the Bucks?

To say three point shooting was a problem for the Bucks last year would be like saying having no gas in your car is a problem when you wish to drive it.  It’s hard to get very far without gasoline, and it was hard for the Bucks to spread the court and get much going offensively with virtually no three point shooting last year.  Last year the Bucks ranked in the bottom half of the league in three point shooting percentage, three point field goals made and attempted.  The Bucks leader in three point percentage?  Richard Jefferson.  While RJ has improved as a shooter over the course of his career and actually connected at a 39% clip, he’s still not thought of as a guy you want leading your team in shooting.

The Bucks troubles with the three ball likely impacted their ability to get consistently good shots inside the arc, especially once Andrew Bogut went down and they lacked much inside.  Last year’s squad ranked 25 in the league (52.6%) in true shooting percentage, an efficiency measuring stick that takes into account field goal, three point and free throw percentage.  But the Bucks have taken steps to rectify the situation, right?

Supposedly.  Don’t get me wrong, the Bucks have done a thing or two this off season designed to rectify the three point shooting problem, I’m just not certain I’m buying all the moves.  They’ve brought on Carlos Delfino, an alleged shooter; Ersan Ilyasova, a possible shooter; and will be bringing back a healthy Michael Redd, a slightly overrated shooter.  In the process of adding (and re-adding in Redd’s case) these three the Bucks managed to lose one of their best shooters from last year in Charlie Villanueva, though to be fair, Charlie V. had never shot the ball so accurately in his career, despite the fact that he certainly had shot it as frequently.

Of the three, Redd obviously will have the most impact on whether or not the Bucks are able to square things away from behind the arc.  While he finished second on the team at 37% from deep last year, Redd has really only been an elite level shooter once in the past six years for the Bucks.  Redd is a mere 38 on the current active leaders in three point percentage, behind guys like Troy Murphy, Luther Head and our old friend Damon Jones. (To say the least I’m more than a little disappointed Mr. Jones has not found a home in the league.  Call me crazy, but I’d rather have him on the end of my bench than about 99% of guys in the league.  If he ever makes it back and you’re ever watching a team that has him, do me a personal favor and watch this guy on the end of the bench.  He’s a riot and the consummate towel waver.)  And while 37% doesn’t sound too bad, it still seemed like every time the Bucks needed Redd to hit a big three he didn’t have it like he used to.

So is this all the Bucks have done with regard to fixing one of their most glaring offensive problems last year?  Not exactly.  I’m saving the best possible solution (and possibly least likely candidate to get playing time) for last.

What gets my hopes up a little bit about possible playing time opportunities for Jodie Meeks was this quote from Skiles about playing rookies, “when you’re suiting up in practice you don’t look as guys as rookies or veterans, you’re just looking at the best guys you can find and trying to put them out there.  I just sort of let my eyes and ears tell me what’s going to happen.”

Skiles went on about Meeks, “Jodie runs the floor very well, he’s a much better athlete than people give him credit for.  He can get around the rim and finish strong, dunk on people.  I’m as interested in seeing how he does as anyone.  Each time the level has play went up a notch, he’s been able to go up with it.”

Meeks is as much of a potential answer to the three points woes as anyone.  In summer league (and this is where I say I know it’s only summer league and the competition isn’t so hot but …) Meeks finished up at 8-15 from deep, a small sample size, but encouraging none the less.  He even had a game winning shot robbed after a buzzer beating runner by Toronto’s Quincy Douby. It wasn’t merely the numbers Meeks put up over the summer that was encouraging, he was always under control and drew praise from nearly everyone who watched him play.  Perhaps this was to be expected of a former Kentucky star.

“Being at Kentucky prepared me for life.  There’s always media at Kentucky, even after the games at a restaurant.  It’s prepared me a lot and has helped me keep a good head on my shoulders.”

Among the perks of playing at big schools like Kentucky are the alumni coming back to play over the summer.

“I’m pretty good friends with Tayshaun Prince, Derek Anderson and Tony Delk, they’ve all been helpful.”

Of those three, Meeks probably has the most Delk in him.  Fun fact: Tony Delk has a fifty point game this decade.  Insane.  Meeks has found a quick mentor in Michael Redd and thinks he can do more than just score.

“(Redd) has been helpful a lot.  He came in when I came in this fall and has tried to help me as many ways as he could.  He said there’s going to be a lot of challenges because everything is so new.  I’m trying not to make to much of it, those are some big shoes to fill.  I’m just a guy who’s going to try and do whatever a team needs, whether it’s scoring one night or defense or whatever.”

And Redd has high hopes for Meeks as well.

“He’s a great kid, meek and humble.  He’s a deadeye shooter and I’m going to work with him at my position just like Ray did with me and try to instill some things in him.”

Whether Meeks will be able to unglue himself from the bench remains to be seen.  If he’s not, all is not lost.  Redd spent all but 35 minutes of his first season nailed to the pine, but spent a lot of time with Ray Allen learning what it took to be a pro.  Whether the strong shooting guard tradition continues is up to Jodie Meeks now.

I watch the Milwaukee Bucks often and write about what I see…

10 Comments

  1. The point I have been making as a casual fan of The Rebuilders is exactly what you are now searching for………….where does the scoring come from.
    The Rebuilders have lost an average of 47 pts per game since they dumped Jefferson, Sessions and Villanueva. They lost three of there best free throw shooters, all shooting throws at around .800. As you noted they ranked 25th in true shooting percentage and they let there top three scorers go!!??
    They have lost 90 minutes of quality playing time.
    The best thing the Rebuilders do have going for them is a hard nosed, old school coach who will sit there butts on the pines when they don’t play hard.

  2. I’ve been a BB fan going on 35 yrs. UK/CBB fan and I watched Meeks get better every year he was at UK. The reason I think that Meeks is really going to help the Bucks is last season where he averaged 24 pts a game he was the #1 target of every team UK faced. And it didnt matter if they had a chaser or 2 sometimes 3 players on him it just didnt matter to him he would just play Balls Out and find a way to score. He is the strongest UK player I have ever seen at UK and in 35 years I’ve seen plenty. And this young man had the kind of year he had even though he had a coach who would degrade him and tell him to stop shooting. Even on his 54 pt performance @ TN he had a coach telling him to Stop shooting yet he shot in the high 50s% in that game including shooting over 60% from 3. The Bucks got a steal in Meeks. Good Luck Bucks looking forward to catching some games on TNT hoping to see Meeks and the Bucks WIN!!!

  3. Bridger – Thanks! My fault on that, a little sloppy with my wording, I’ve corrected my error.

    Edward – That’s great news from a long time Kentucky fan. As I pointed out with a couple guys in the piece, a lot of great players have come through there, so it’s lofty praise to put Meeks as the strongest player you’ve seen. My hopes for him are sky high.

  4. Pingback: Jodie Meeks exciting Bucks fans

  5. As a long time Kentucky fan I will say this about Meeks, you have a great player who will turn out to be a player to count on for your team.

    Think of these things:

    Meeks played for Tubby Smith. If you look at the other Kentucky players in the league that played for Tubby you will notice they all play great defense. Tubby was a great defensive coach, so you have a guy who will give it his all on the defensive end as well as the offensive end. Meeks is a complete player in that respect.

    Meeks can flat out score. As the previous poster said, even with a former coach trying to get him to shoot less Meeks took control of a team that needed a leader and he did what was needed to win. Without Meeks Kentucky would not have won half the games they did his last year.

    Meeks was highly under rated in the NBA draft because teams probably just saw a junior who had one really good year. This is a major misconception. Meeks had to overcome a lot of challenges during his collegiate stay.

    Meeks had a very good freshman year, but like most freshman he did have an adjustment period. He really looked good when he played though and the fan base was very excited about the young man. During his sophomore year he was hurt most of that year, and as a result really didn’t get to play much which really hurt his stats and hwo people viewed him. (Also keep in mind there was a coaching change, so he also had to learn what the new coach expected of him.) Fans really expected him to break out during his sophomore year, but because of injuries he didn’t get that opportunity.

    Then came his junior year, he was healed up and he did EXACTLY what people expected and had a break out year. The fans expected a lot out of Meeks, but they did not expect him to exceed those expectations as much as he did.

    I will not go as far as one of the other posters did and say that he is the best player out of Kentucky that I have seen, but he is certainly in that top category. Look at players in the NBA from Kentucky like Keith Bogans and chuck Hayes, both very good players who work hard and make the fans of Kentucky proud. Those guys are hard workers and have made a good showing for themselves. Now look at Meeks and realize that you have a player with not only that type of work ethic, but the athletic skills and determination to succeed in the NBA.

    You guys have a gem there, Meeks will help your team. Don’t be surprised to see him eventually become one of your favorite players.

  6. I’m a Kentucky fan as well, and I have a completely different take on Jodie Meeks than the two previous people that have commented on him.

    First let me say Jodie Meeks was one of the best shot makers in college basketball last year. He can flat out fill it up, and his shot is extremely accurate. Beyond that, he is a really under-rated athlete. He was among the tops in the entire NBA draft camp in both the sprint and vertical leap.

    With that said, the reason his athleticism is so under-valued is because he’s only 6’3″ and has short arms. At that height, it would be nice if Meeks had some point guard skills, but that is most definitely the weakest part of his game. He’s very turnover prone, his ball handling is suspect, and he doesn’t see the floor very well. Some of these people want to say Meeks is the best Kentucky player they’ve seen in 35 years, but he wasn’t even the best player on his team last (Patrick Patterson).

    I don’t want to take away from the year Meeks had last year. It was really spectacular. He’s a really good shot maker from all spots on the floor. Still, while he single handedly won some games for us, he single handedly lost other games for us. His lack of ability taking care of the ball certainly contributed to a team that was among the worst in the entire NCAA last year in turnovers.

    Also while several above are talking very positively about his defense, I thought he was one of the worst defenders on the team. He’s certainly athletically capable of being a good defender, but his MO last year was gambling too much. Sure he’d force some turnovers, but he also got beat a lot. As an on the ball defender, I think there were 5 or 6 Kentucky guards last year that were better than him.

    Those are the reasons Meeks was a second round pick, and a lot of people didn’t even think he would be drafted.

    His jumpshot is quick and accurate. That alone makes him an asset. I’m just not sure I’d expect him to get any major PT until he improves his ability to handle the ball and pass… If he were 3 inches taller, this whole discussion would be obsolete, but as an undersized guard, he really needs to improve some parts of his game. He’s definitely a good kid, though, and he works as hard as anyone. I hope he proves me wrong. I just don’t see him really making it in the league.

  7. Wow. Is there any better fan base than the U of Kentucky? Great stuff from everyone. I’m excited for Meeks. While his shot making may get him some extra time, those Tubby defensive principles will be most important for him to earn time under Skiles.

  8. The team was better defensively in Gillispie’s first two years at UK than it was during Smith’s final two years. The ball-line conservative double-down defense was good at times, but it gave away too many wide open outside shots, and it often failed to create turnovers. If I’m being forced to generalize, I definitely prefer Gillispie’s straight up pressure man defense with wing denials.

    Tubby Smith’s players have all been surprisingly good at the next level, but I think a lot of that has to do with the failure of his system to show off just how good these guys were in college. I mean every single player he’s coached that has gone on to play basketball professionally has exceeded their expectations upon their exit from UK. Some label that a coach that instilled discipline in his players. I call it a coach that wasn’t very good at displaying the talent he had available to him… And ultimately I think that lack of ability to show off talent cause the talent to dry up in Lexington, and he lost favor with the public.

    You’d think with so many of his former players playing professionally there would have been at least one player that was drafted too high and bombed in the league, but that isn’t the case. Guys like Tayshaun Prince, Kelenna Azubuike, Rajon Rondo, Chuck Hayes, Eric Daniels, and Keith Bogans have all had better pro careers than their draft position (or lack there of in some cases).

    Anyway, this might not be the correct venue for such a debate. I just get a little turned off by generic “Tubby taught him great defense” comments. Tubby is a decent coach, and a great man. I just don’t think he teaches anything groundbreaking defensively. In fact I prefer the two very different versions of man to man defense the two newest UK coaches teach their teams to the conservative ball-line defense Tubby Smith taught his teams.