Jodie Meeks would have benefitted from another year at Kentucky, without a doubt. He’d have honed his ball-handling ability. And his college-oriented style would’ve transformed into a more pro-style game, where you create your own offense instead of having it created for you.
But the bottom line is this. He can develop all those things in the NBA, too. And get paid while he’s doing it. Couple that with the risk of injury that every player faces and it’s hard to argue with his decision to remain in the NBA Draft.
Meeks was facing an adjustment in new UK coach John Calipari’s dribble-drive offense. I think it was an adjustment he could have made pretty well. But it wasn’t going to be easy. Watch some video of last season and see how much of Meeks’ offense was generated through cutting off of screens, or through the design of Billy Gillispie’s half-court patterns.
When Meeks had the ball himself, he was good at taking a lane to the hoop, but rarely showed that he could shake a defender off him and blow by, which is one of the first things you must be able to do in the dribble-drive. It’s not that Meeks lacked that ability, it’s just that he hadn’t fully developed it yet.
I don’t think there’s any question, Meeks can be a good pro, if he develops those skills.
The bigger question here now becomes, what does this mean for UK. I’m not going to propose that losing a seasoned player of Meeks’ quality is a good thing for the Wildcats. That’s crazy.
I am going to say that Meeks coming back would have created challenges along with the opportunities it presented.
First, Meeks was going to have to buy into a system where he scored fewer points than a year ago, while becoming the type of player who set up his teammates and made them better. This was Gillispie’s only criticism of Meeks last year. For all the attention he got from opposing defenses, you didn’t see him creating a whole lot of offense for others.
Second, players who come back sometimes seem preoccupied from game-to-game with what they’ve “shown the scouts.” Sometimes, they focus on that to the detriment of their overall team game. I don’t think that would be the case with Meeks, but the longer he agonized over the decision, the more I wondered what his mindset would be if he did return.
UK should have plenty of scoring weapons next season, though I don’t think it has another player with Meeks’ outside shooting ability. That perimeter shooting is the one part of Meeks’ game that the team will miss the most.
But if Meeks’ heart wasn’t 100 percent in coming back, and if his mindset has already turned toward the NBA, then the decision he made today to stay in the draft is the best one for everybody.