Saturday, July 19, 2014

Listen to Your Chart: Jodie Meeks

As Stan Van Gundy's first free agent signing, Jodie Meeks represents the changing of the guards in the Pistons front office.  Not just because he was SVG's first free agent addition, but also because his game fits a different mold than what was targeted during Joe Dumars' tenure.  Meeks has a new-age game, with an offensive style that reflects the changes brought on by the advent of shot charts, True Shooting Percentage and basketball analytics.  Last season with the Lakers, Meeks put up a career-high in TS% at 60.1%, thanks to a strong year beyond the arc and in the paint.  Let's take a look at how he did it, and why Jodie Meeks represents a shift in ideology for Pistons basketball, which should bode well for the future.
Click "Read More" for THE FUTURE....

Above you'll see Jodie Meeks' shot frequency chart, showing where he took the bulk of his shots during the 2013-14 seaosn.  In case you don't want to do the math yourself, Meeks took 37% of his shots from beyond the arc, and 43.9% of his attempts "at the rim".  That leaves only 19% of his attempts for the mid-range areas, and if you get strict about what "mid-range" is by removing the areas below the FT line, you can shave it down to about 15.5%.  So, why is this important?  Like many things, basketball functions with a risk-reward structure.  Three point shots are worth more because they're much harder to convert.  This is simple.  So if you consider the risk-reward structure, what's the benefit to taking a mid-range shot over a layup/dunk or a three?  There practically is none.  While the defense will be tighter in the paint, that comes with the increased chance of drawing free throws, something Meeks did very well last season.  Or, if you shoot from five feet further back, you can add a point for only a marginal amount of added difficulty.  To sum this up, unless you're an elite mid-range shooter (LaMarcus Aldridge, for example), there is practically no benefit to the mid-range jumper.  Jodie Meeks either knows this, or is an inherently enlightened offensive player.  Either way, that should benefit the Pistons this season.
Here, we have Meeks' shot efficiency chart, color-coded for how he matches up compared to the league average.  As you can see, Meeks was above league-average from just about every spot beyond the arc and also at the rim.  He managed to do this where the next-best offensive option for the majority of the season was....uhhh...Nick Young?  This is remarkably impressive production from a player on such a bad team.  Unless teams failed to scout Meeks (This is plausible, because you couldn't pay me to watch the '13-'14 Lakers either), he managed to shoot above league efficiency at all of the spots where he likes to shoot.  If he can replicate even a portion of what he did here, Meeks should give the Pistons everything (and more) that Stuckey gave the Pistons at the rim, coupled with supreme efficiency from the perimeter.  It's hard for me to buy that this is going to be an overpay when I see Meeks' shot chart and think about just how inefficient the Pistons were last season on offense.  There's an awful lot of red in the mid-range for Meeks, but that shouldn't concern you much, for reasons listed above.  It's one thing to be bad at something, it's another to do that thing at a high frequency.  If you don't understand that last sentence, think about Josh Smith shooting threes.

With everything above considered, lumped in with Meeks' ability to get to the free throw line, Meeks should be the Pistons' most efficient (measured in TS%) backcourt player since Chauncey Billups.  That's not to say that Meeks will be as good as Billups, or even as good of a scorer, but he should represent significant improvement over Rodney Stuckey, at $2 million dollars less per season.  This is the best argument against all of the Twitter banter from reporters and bloggers alike getting their kicks from the Jodie Meeks contract.  Time will tell whether or not it was an overpay, but if I had betting money, I'd put it on Meeks playing up to the deal, for the reasons listed above.

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