As the Lakers continue to fill out the roster, 76ers guard Jodie Meeks and Jazz swingman C.J. Miles have recently popped up as free agents on the radar. The Salt Lake Tribune's Brian T. Smith has reported Miles is strongly considering the Lakers, and the Meeks news comes straight from the player himself. While it certainly would be fantastic if both could enter the fold as reserves, that feels like a long shot, given the franchise's shallow pool of financial resources. Thus, if both are in the mix, a choice eventually feels necessary. So who would make the most sense?
For more perspective on Meeks, I called upon Carey Smith of the True Hoop network's Philadunkia blog. Here is Smith's scouting report on Meeks:
"When he's "on," Meeks owns a lethal jumper that can be a game changer. He plays solid and ever-improving defense, can find the open man with the extra pass and he's a great locker room guy. So he has a number of valuable basketball skills, and as long as Meeks is used correctly, he can be a positive contributor for an NBA roster. He's at his best as a role player coming off the bench for eight to 10 minutes a game and hitting one or two open jumpers.
Unfortunately, he was not used this way until literally his final days in Philly during the 2012 playoffs. Instead, Doug Collins stubbornly penciled his name in with the first five 114 times over the last two seasons. Thus the two-guard position was the Sixers' most glaring weakness from 2010-2012. His jumper is wildly inconsistent and he cannot create a shot for himself off the dribble. In my opinion, those are not items a team or a fan wants to hear about your starting shooting guard. I don't care what the advance stats prove about Meeks (apparently they say he is an efficient NBA player, given his salary) or how Collins tries to spin his decision. Meeks is not a starting two guard in this League. PERIOD. Watch him play for a mere five games and any knowledgeable hoop head will come to that same conclusion."
Well, first things first. While perhaps frustrating for Sixers fans over the last pair of seasons, that Meeks isn't a credible starting two guard is irrelevant for these purposes. He ain't beating out Kobe Bryant for the gig, and were the Mamba to miss a significant chunk of time, the season would shift so radically his replacement is arguably trivial. What matters is Meeks' qualifications as a reserve, and there's no reason to think he can't handle those responsibilities.
In the meantime, Meeks provides a skill set desperately needed: outside shooting. Since 2010, he's drained (at worst) 36.5 percent of attempts from downtown and (at best) nearly 40 percent. His prowess doesn't quite qualify as "automatic," but he's a legitimate threat who can keep defenses honest. You may have noticed the Lakers are painfully short low on such players. Defensively, Meeks isn't incredible, but as Smith notes, he's improving, and a gander at his Synergy numbers hints at results better than his reputation. (In a nutshell, for those without a Synergy subscription, Meeks is pretty successful defending against pick-and-roll, off screens and jump shooters, not so much in isolation.)
Plus, landing Meeks for a million-ish bucks feels doable. He's never earned a seven-figure salary, so this actually constitutes a raise, rather than a pay cut the organization requests from most folks. He might fetch a little more dough elsewhere, but a Brinks truck won't be required no matter where Meeks signs. If you can't command top or even medium dollar, there are worse ways to break the tie than joining the Lakers.
As for Miles, he's basically Bizarro-Jodie Meeks, particularly as a shooter. On a career, the small forward is just under 33 percent from the 3-point line. Varying degrees of success have been enjoyed between 10 and 23 feet out, but Miles has generally flourished most at the rim. Granted, the Lakers aren't steeped in wings who finish well, so this is hardly a pure negative, but it nonetheless bears mentioning. And Miles may boast the better defensive rep, but his defensive numbers from Synergy or 82games.com don't actually grade out notably better than Meeks'. (Miles remains the mirror image of Meeks: Excellent in isolation, less successful in most other situations.)
Still, the southpaw is bigger, more athletic and certainly more seasoned, which is also why I'm not sure the money will line up to the Lakers' liking. Smith's report states Miles may receive the entire mini mid-level exception, which the Lakers are unlikely to use. Obviously, free agency is nothing if not fluid. I wasn't convinced the Lamar Odom trade exception would ever be cashed in, much less on Steve Nash, who once expressed reticence at the notion of becoming a Laker. Things can change on a dime. But with the payroll already high and the luxury tax essentially doubling a $3-million salary, I'd personally be surprised if the Lakers deemed Miles worthy of the whole enchilada.
All in all, Meeks strikes me as the more realistic option, and arguably the player who addresses more pressing needs. However, were either given a Lakers uni, he'd represent another solid addition during a very productive offseason.