Jodie Meeks has been impressive as of late, putting up 15 points per game over the last seven contests. He continued this trend in Tuesday night’s win over the Bobcats, when he scored 17 points off the bench.
His role of coming off the pine may be about to change, though. D’Antoni is thinking about putting him in the starting line-up.
On the offensive side of the ball, this is a no-brainer. Having Meeks out on the floor with Nash, Kobe, Pau and Dwight will be devastating for defenses. It’ll spread the floor even more and open up things for everyone.
It’ll also be welcome news for Chris Duhon and Darius Morris, as both those guys will probably still see court time once Nash is back, seeing as someone will have to come off the bench and play the back-up shooting guard for Meeks now.
The disadvantage of such a line-up will be on the defensive end. Not so much due to Meeks’ individual defense, because quite frankly that’s been pretty impressive and a surprise so far, but because Kobe is going to be asked to guard guys like Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James.
D’Antoni could always change his starting line-up for such games, but that wouldn’t be good for chemistry; we’ve seen enough line-ups so far this year. We need to find one that we can finally stick with and let that unit grow together.
The other option is bringing Metta World Peace in at the 8 or 7 minute mark of the quarter, much like we saw in Tuesday’s win over Charlotte. MWP checked in for Pau at this point and continued to be effective at the 4.
However, when playing against guys like KD, Melo and LBJ, they can do a lot of damage in 5 or even 4 minutes of play – see: Anthony going crazy on the Lakers in the first quarter on Friday – and you normally want to match a guy like Metta’s minutes up with a star player on the other team. For example, MWP might only be on the court for 3 or 4 minutes before the star he’s guarding goes to the bench.
And even then, MWP would probably have to guard the other power forward, otherwise that job would be left to Kobe to try and cope with.
It’s not that Kobe can’t guard the top players in the league, but at his age, he needs to take some possessions off on the defensive end so he can still be effective scoring the ball.
There is a possible defensive silver lining, though: one way D’Antoni may look to use Meeks is to have him defend the quicker guard on the opposing team on any given night, instead of giving that task to a 38-year-old Steve Nash.
For example, if you’re going up against the Thunder, I’d like my chances more of Meeks trying to contain Russell Westbrook than Nash trying to stop him. Not only because Nash isn’t the greatest defender, but because he also has to save his energy for the offensive end, much like Kobe.
There’s also another way of looking at Kobe guarding the star small forwards: let them score their points. Even if they took every shot and scored 100 points by themselves, an offensive-geared team like the Lakers will beat them by reaching their aim of about 115 points each night; that’s if they can score that amount oN a consistent basis, of course.
Another option is making the star small forward put the ball on the deck and force him towards Dwight. That will obviously require help defense from the other guys on the team – which is a lot easier than individual defense, I might add – and will turn the opposing team’s star into more of a passer.
REASONS FOR THE MOVE?
But, is D’Antoni even thinking that far ahead? Is he just thinking about the offensive side of things? How long has this idea been brewing in his mind? Has he discussed it with his assistant coaches?
I guess it’s worth giving it a go while the team searches for a solid rotation. If he uses the line-up on Saturday in Golden State, it could easily work very well as the Warriors still like to resort to a smaller line-up at times.
The real test would come on Christmas Day versus the Knicks – that’s if Melo has recovered from that sprained ankle by then.
IS IT WORTH IT?
Jodie Meeks doesn’t have to start the game to get major minutes, though. He could easily still rack up starter-like mins by coming off the bench. He could even end the game at the 2 with Kobe at the 3 – Phil did this in the past a number of times, with Shannon Brown playing at the shooting guard position.
At the end of the day, it’s going to come down to whether the potential liabilities on defense are worth sacrificing for the output you get on offense. Obviously, the team that scores the most points will win the game.
If the Lakers can have a better offensive efficiency than the opposing team by starting Jodie Meeks, it will be worth it – let’s just hope it doesn’t wear out the Mamba in the process.