Guard Jodie Meeks probably will improve the Lakers' outside shooting. (Suchat Pederson / Associated…)
This is the seventh post in a series focusing on five things each Lakers player must do to have a successful 2012-13 season.
1. Jodie Meeks needs to help decrease the minutes played by Kobe Bryant. Lakers Coach Mike Brown talked last year about wanting to limit Bryant to 33 to 35 minutes per game, but Bryant finished the season averaging 38.5 minutes per contest. Part of that reflected Brown's discomfort with the alternatives. Andrew Goudelock became a decent three-point shooter, but he lacked skills in running the offense and defending. The Lakers had talked about using Devin Ebanks there, but he lacked enough experience to earn the coaching staff's trust.
Meeks should provide a more formidable option because of his strong outside shooting and previous experience at playing backup shooting guard. Meeks' responsibility pales in comparison to others in the Lakers' star-studded lineup, but he could drastically affect how much Bryant will rest during the regular season. Considering the worries about Bryant's basketball mileage, the Lakers can't afford to risk this season needlessly testing his threshold for pain and playing time.
2. Meeks needs to significantly improve the Lakers' outside shooting. Meeks' role will increase if he taps into one of the Lakers' biggest weaknesses last season. The Lakers shot only 39.5% from the field in 2011-12, which ranked 25th in the league. That number dropped to a 30% clip during the postseason, putting them in 11th place out of the 16 playoff teams. Meanwhile, the 6-foot-4 Meeks averaged a career-high 37% from three-point range in the last two years.
Meeks may not receive the same amount of attempts he did with Philadelphia because of the talent level. That could make it harder to establish a routine. Regardless, Meeks has to space himself properly so he is spotting up with consistent rhythm.
3. Meeks needs to vary how he scores. After shooting nearly 40% from three-point range during the first half of the season, Meeks barely cracked 31% during the second half. Should such shooting struggles emerge this season, it's imperative Meeks finds other ways to score. He'll need to attack the basket so that he can capitalize on his strong marks at the free-throw line (a career 88.4% shooter). Meeks will need to get others involved so the ball movement stays crisp. Even if he finds himself open on the perimeter, it wouldn't hurt to step in a few extra feet so he can rebuild his rhythm.
4. Meeks' defense must continue to improve. The Lakers have a strong insurance policy with Dwight Howard protecting the rim. Still, the Lakers are in dire need of backcourt defensive help because of Steve Nash's age and the need to conserve Bryant's energy. That's why it's imperative Meeks improves his defense. Synergy Sports Technology reveals he's a better defender than meets the eye. He still struggles stopping players in one-on-one situations, but he's decent enough at defending against pick-and-rolls, off screens and jump shooters. Meeks' work on defense could further cement his value.
5. Meeks should continue having a positive attitude. Despite Meeks' inconsistency, Sixers Coach Doug Collins continuously praised Meeks for his work ethic and amiable personality. Should he encounter any problems, Meeks' attitude would go a long way in ingratiating himself with the team. Bryant has taken a liking to his previous backup shooting guards in Trevor Ariza, Shannon Brown and Goudelock because of their work ethic. Should Meeks maintain that, it's probable Bryant would take him under his wing and teach him. It will also increase the likelihood that Brown would stay patient with him.