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.