It made sense for the Detroit Pistons to look for three point shooters last offseason–they ranked 29th out of 30 teams from downtown in.
With Greg Monroe, Josh Smith, and Andre Drummond sharing minutes, and no legitimate deep threat on the roster (or scoring wing for that matter), it made sense to Van Gundy to bring in a scoring specialist like Jodie Meeks–even if it meant overpaying.
But does it make sense for the Pistons to keep Meeks with the roster they have now?
Last season the Pistons ranked 18th from distance moving from 32.2 percent to 34.4 percent. Meeks shooting only marginally helped that stat line going 34.9 percent from beyond the arc after going 40 percent the season before. If anything, the slight uptick in production had more to do with Van Gundy’s system, and the floor spacing created after Josh Smith was waived, than it did Meeks.
This isn’t to say that Meeks can’t help the Pistons move up the ladder and become a more efficient shooting team. His down season has more to do with a back injury that kept him out over two months, than his skill level. Even with the injury he wasn’t that bad. After averaging 15.7 points per game with the Kobe Bryant-less Lakers and averaging a career high in minutes, Meeks accepted a smaller roll off the bench for the Pistons and still managed 11 points per game.
There’s a good chance that Meeks is even more efficient this season when he figures to be fully healthy.
A healthy Meeks could be an asset for the Pistons on the court. But he could be even more of an asset in a trade if the right one presents itself.
Do the Pistons really need Meeks anymore? Among the starters, they have a much younger option in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope who should be able to–at minimum– replicate what Meeks does on offense. Defensively Caldwell-pope is much better.
On the bench is rookie second round pick Darrun Hilliard, who Van Gundy felt was a top 25 player. If he proves to be that type of player there will certainly be a role for him on the Pistons’ 15-man roster next season.
The Pistons would probably be better off spending their minutes on those two players at shooting guard–even if it means putting a lesser team on the court in Hilliard, who won’t be able to contribute in his rookie season the way Meeks likely would have. But that’s okay, I’m not sure Meeks production is good enough to push the Pistons over the edge anyway–either way they are a team that may or may not make the playoffs.
Just because Meeks doesn’t look to be in the Pistons’ long-term plans, or move the needle much short-term, doesn’t mean he can’t be a nice piece for a team with championship aspirations.
Some fans might look at Meeks’ contract and scoff at the notion that Meeks is a suitable trade piece, but a two year deal with $12,810,000 left on it just isn’t what it used to be with the cap rising to $70 million this season (luxury tax $84.740) and maybe as high as $90 million in 2016.
Perhaps the Pistons can swing another Reggie Jackson/D.J. Augustin type of deal at the trade deadline where they bring in a younger, more talented player who just didn’t fit with that team’s long-term plans.
Maybe the Pistons could package Meeks with Brandon Jennings and/or Marcus more, and get an even better piece.
The value of a player like Meeks and Jennings in trade would be dependent on both player’s health and production–particularly in Jennings’ case–and the other team’s situation. Either player paired with Morris could be enough to cash in for a player like Tobias Harris who, despite his recent extension, still has an unclear fit with the Magic.
Rolling with an unproven second round pick like Hilliard as a back up shooting guard is downright risky. But if the Pistons decided to move Meeks around the trade deadline he’ll at least have had some exposure to the NBA (hopefully) and the Pistons will have a better idea of what he does and doesn’t do well.
Trading Meeks might not be the most exciting idea for fans hoping for the playoffs next season, but the focus should be big picture. While his contract and playing time doesn’t greatly change the Pistons in the long run, he could be valuable in a trade if the right one presents itself.