While you were basking in the glory of the Dwight Howard acquisition (or lamenting, depending on whose side you're on), the Los Angeles Lakers went out and signed Jodie Meeks. Here are five reasons that Meeks alone makes them a title contender.
1. He's a threat off the bench
The number one issue with the Lakers in 2011-2012 was the lack of bench production. At 21.3 points per game during the regular season, the second unit wasn't getting it done and often couldn't stay in games. Meeks will bring perimeter shooting to a bench and team that can use plenty more of it. Turning a weakness into a strength is a quick way to put a team that was relatively close to the NBA Finals that much closer.2. He can spell Kobe Bryant with quality minutes
Obviously Kobe Bryant is a scorer, and when he leaves the floor, the Lakers can become stagnant on offense. It's a sight all-too familiar for Lakers fans.
Meeks has a scorer's mentality and can alleviate those issues by taking some pressure off his new teammates. His NBA average of 10.1 ppg is not spectacular, but he's fully capable of scoring in bunches. His career-high at Kentucky? A school record 54 points.3. He's a real sixth man Meeks was a "tweener" when it came to his role on the Philadelphia 76ers. In 2011-2012, he started 50 out of 66 games and competed with Evan Turner for playing time. But with the Lakers, he is clearly the sixth man and can come in to play significant minutes when needed.
Things did not go well for the team when the Lakers lost former Sixth Man of the Year Lamar Odom in 2011, and a player like Meeks can make that loss a distant memory. The importance of a good sixth man can't be understated. For an example, look at the impact of Odom during the 2009 and 2010 championship seasons as well as the effect that James Harden had on 2012 Western Conference Champion Oklahoma City Thunder.
4. He's young
Another aspect that can't be taken too lightly is the fact that Meeks is still a young player. When the season begins, he will be 25 years old and entering his fourth NBA season. His youth will be a major factor in helping the aging core of players get through the rigors of a full 82-game season.
Late in the year and into the playoffs, having the fresh legs of Meeks will be an advantage. It will also have a trickle-down effect since he can make life easier for thirty-somethings Bryant and Steve Nash.
5. He's a perfect fit
Back to the question at hand -- how does Meeks alone make the Lakers a title contender?
Simply put, the team was not far from having a realistic shot at competing with the NBA's elite in the 2012 NBA Playoffs. The key elements that were lacking are all areas that Meeks excels in.
The Lakers shot just 30 percent from the three-point line in 12 playoff games, and Meeks is a career 37 percent shooter from the arc. He should have plenty of opportunity to build on that number as the Lakers will surround him with weapons that will keep defenders honest.
The fact that he'll bring all of that to the table as a member of the second unit is an added bonus. Again, bench scoring was the team's primary weakness.
Joining the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent is a move that will be mutually beneficial, and it could be the difference that finds the Lakers hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy come next summer.
Michael C. Jones is a Yahoo! Featured Contributor in Sports and covers the Los Angeles Lakers and the NBA. He has written for Southern California's Press-Enterprise and Examiner.com and is the Editor of SportsOutWest.com. For more insight, follow him on Twitter.
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- Los Angeles Lakers
- Jodie Meeks
- Kobe Bryant