Remember when you were a little kid and your parents started putting all the wrapped presents under the tree in the weeks and days leading up to Christmas and you just couldn't wait to open them?
That's kind of what it's been like for the Pistons regarding Jodie Meeks, their highest-priced free agent acquisition who has missed the entire season with a back injury. That injury, a back fracture, was suffered exactly eight weeks ago today and the timetable was set at six to eight weeks.
Does that mean the Pistons are ready to unveil the sharpshooting guard? Nope. Head coach Stan Van Gundy tells David Mayo of MLive that he isn't expecting Meeks back until around Christmas. (Ed. note: See update at the bottom.)
So what will the Pistons get when Meeks returns?
Meeks was signed to do the one thing the Pistons have been absolutely dreadful at -- shooting. Meeks had a 60 percent true shooting percentage, took 45 percent of his shots from 3 and converted at a 40 percent rate last season. Detroit's starting lineup features three players with sub-50 percent true shooting percentages in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Josh Smith and Andre Drummond.
Smith is bringing in the rear with a 41 true shooting percentage while also leading the team in shots. KCP isn't far behind, though, and while he is the team's best defender by far the Pistons might be better served to put Meeks in the starting lineup.
There he could take a lot of the offensive pressure off of KCP, who has been inconsistent on offense all year. He could also take away shots from Smith, who has been consistently bad putting the ball in the basket.
Meeks also might be able to do something else neither Smith nor KCP is really good at and that is handle the ball. Van Gundy has shown that he likes to have a secondary ball handler on the floor and he doesn't really have it right now. Brandon Jennings started the season strong but is struggling post-injury and DJ Augustin can't seem to throw a pebble in the ocean or run the offense. But even if they did manage to both get right offensively, the thought of both Jennings and Augustin in the backcourt is a truly horrifying thought, defensively speaking.
I have to imagine that goes a long way to explaining Van Gundy's penchant for giving Smith so much of the offensive load. He needs a player that can force the defense to react and often times the only guy that can even kind of do that is Smith.
The trouble is, Smith might be good at floor-length outlets and the occasional open man for the corner 3, but he's not really good at dissecting the defense. We've all seen his high dribble going right into the teeth of the defense in the paint. Yuck.
This is something the Pistons are desperate for with so few shot creators and so many catch-and-shoot-type players. Right now, every shot a Pistons player takes is super difficult with a man in their face.
Meeks can not only knock down the open perimeter look to keep defenders honest but he can handle the ball a little bit. He played roughly 20 percent of his minutes at point guard in Los Angeles last season, according to basketball-reference, and that number jibes with on-off-court data on nbawowy.
He didn't put up gaudy (or even good) assist numbers, but video review shows that Meeks is good at running the floor, driving the lane and finishing at the rim when the opportunity presents itself. If he can steal some of the shots currently hoisted by KCP and Smith (currently 27 combined), boost the offensive efficiency and give Van Gundy the semblance of a secondary ball handler then this might finally start looking like a functional NBA offense.
It still won't be enough to turn the Pistons season around, but it could be enough to make the team at least watchable again.
Jodie Meeks could play as soon as Friday, SVG says. Needs to see him practice next 2 days— Keith Langlois (@Keith_Langlois) December 9, 2014