After waiting weeks to hear from UK guard Jodie Meeks about his draft status, Wildcat fans got the word on Monday that the Norcross, Ga. native has opted to remain in the NBA Draft. It's a decision that's drawing mixed reviews.
Meeks' decision to stay in the draft is a good one if you consider several factors. First, Meeks took a beating last season, given he and Patrick Patterson were UK's only viable offensive threats. For much of the year, Meeks faced double teams and specialized defenses after putting up record-breaking scoring performances. Meeks won't have to face that in the NBA.
Both Meeks and coach Billy Gillispie admitted the season took its toll on the guard.
New UK coach John Calipari is bringing in the nation's top-rated recruiting class. With Patterson returning, and with the addition of John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Daniel Orton, and the development of Darius Miller, Meeks likely would not have been the only scoring option for the Cats this upcoming season. That means his scoring may have slacked off. He probably would have been the third-best prospect on his own team (Wall and Patterson). So coming out now makes more sense.
Meeks plays with a scorer's mentality. Scorers have often fared well in the NBA. One of the best, Vinnie "the Microwave Johnson, starred for the Pistons during their Bad Boys era. Johnson was so-named because of his ability to come off the bench and create instant offense. Meeks is a streaky shooter and could be a Microwave-type player.
Carmello Anthony is another scorer and considered one of the league's best young stars. Boston's Eddie House is a designated shooter, something akin to what Meeks might do in the NBA, and House helped lead the Celtics to a title in 2008.
Former Wildcat Kelenna Azubuike made a similar decision several years ago, opting to turn pro after his junior season, despite warnings to stay in school. Azubuike went undrafted and people said "I told you so." Azubuike finally made it to the NBA and will be entering his third season. According to ESPN, Azubuike is scheduled to make $2.9 million next year.
Even if Meeks goes undrafted, he could take the same route that Azubuike took, playing in the NBA's developmental league, or could go overseas and make great money playing in Europe or elsewhere.
But a majority of experts, including UK fans, are panning Meeks' decision, saying the timing is wrong. NBA scouts say while he's had good workouts, Meeks hasn't been great. He still has several deficiencies in his game.
Playing in Calipari's Dribble Drive Motion Offense would have given Meeks the chance to handle to ball more. Predicated on driving and pitching, Meeks would have been given the chance to work on that aspect of his game. While athletic, he's known around the NBA as a spot up shooter.
The NBA is a big man's league. Guard play is little more than screen and rolls. Meeks would have benefited from playing a year in Calipari's system.
Meeks is projected as a second-round pick. There is no guaranteed money in the second round. Had he stayed in school, he may have improved his draftability. Many agree a player is better off not being drafted, rather than in the second round. If that's the case, Meeks' best bet is to catch on as a free agent.
Meeks says he got good feedback from NBA brass. "It's not fair to share. But it was good feedback. It was enough feedback for me to stay in the draft," Meeks told Kentucky.com. The thinking here is Meeks knows something or has been told by a team that he might be their first pick.
The Big Blue Nation will tell you Meeks could be the Wildcats' missing piece, the one player who could help deliver a national championship to Lexington.
No matter how you slice it, the Cats are losing one of the school's clutch performers. His decision obviously is a personal one and we might not know if it's a good one, or bad one, until June 25. Even then, it might be several years down the road before we know if Jodie Meeks made the right choice in leaving for the NBA.
Those are the highlights... Stay tuned.