The Detroit Pistons made some noise on Tuesday during day one of the NBA’s free agency period as they reportedly reached agreements with both Jodie Meeks and Cartier Martin. The deals are only verbal agreements at this point, teams cannot officially sign any free agents until July 10.
The Meeks deal will be worth $19.5 million across three years according to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who first reported the agreement. Martin’s alleged deal, which was also reported first by Wojnarowski, is only for one year. The Detroit News’ Vincent Goodwill has heard that Martin’s contract will contain a player option for a second year.
Meeks, 26, is coming off of his best season in the league where he averaged 15.7 points-per-game with the Los Angeles Lakers. That would have been good for the second-highest scoring average on Detroit last season. While his stats are surely inflated from playing for last year’s injury-prone Lakers, he also showed serious signs of improvement in other areas of his game.
Meeks got to the free-throw line at a career-best rate last season, meaning he got much more aggressive. He also set personal bests in the assist, rebound and steal categories during 2013-2014. This all goes without mentioning how fast he is. He is going to immediately bolster Detroit’s fast break with his open-floor speed. If you think he is just going to just park himself behind the arc in Detroit’s offense, you’re wrong. I know he isn’t the best defender, but he’s adequate and he now has a defensive-minded coach to help him improve. Stan Van Gundy once turned J.J. Redick into a serviceable defender, and he can do the same with Meeks. Basically, Meeks is a better all-around player than most people think.
The 6-foot-4 shooting guard is entering his sixth season in the league, meaning he still has plenty of time to mature as a player. Most importantly, he will provide the Pistons with what they need the most: three-point shooting. Meeks hit 40.1 percent of his three-pointers last season. The Pistons finished second-to-last in the league in three-point shooting (32.1 percent as a team) behind only the Philadelphia 76ers.
I know what most people are thinking — “the Pistons paid too much for him just like they always do with guys in free agency” — and I’m no different. That’s how I initially felt when I heard of the agreement. But after digging a little deeper, I no longer think that the Pistons are overpaying Meeks for his services, and I don’t think Detroit fans should think that either. Here’s why:
First and foremost, Detroit immediately addressed last season’s biggest problem by signing one of the best shooters available in free agency. That doesn’t sound like something to complain about. Meeks has always been a dead-eye shooter, and he has the Kentucky men’s basketball records for made three-pointers in a game (10) and in a season (117) to prove it . That’s no small feat when talking about one of the most decorated NCAA basketball programs ever.
Second, he is an upgrade from Rodney Stuckey. Meeks is going to space the floor better than Stuckey ever could for the Pistons. Meeks drained 162 three-pointers last season. Stuckey has made 182 threes in his seven seasons in the NBA. The Pistons paid Stuckey $8.5 million last year, while Meeks will make around $6.5 million each season with Detroit. Sure, Stuckey could undeniable score, but so can Meeks. And he can do it in ways that Stuckey never could, ways that Detroit desperately needs, for less money. That’s called an upgrade.
Finally, look at some of the contracts other backcourt free agents have been agreeing to so far this offseason. C.J. Miles agreed to a 4 year, $18 million offer from the Indiana Pacers. Restricted free agent Avery Bradley was resigned by the Boston Celtics for four years and $32 million. Perennial backup Darren Collision just agreed to 3 years for $16 million with the Sacramento Kings; the same contract as oft-injured Shaun Livingston received from the Golden State Warriors. Even the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs gave Patty Mills, who played just 18.9 minutes-per-game last season, $4 million-a-year for three years to be a backup. After looking at these other reported deals, I see no problems with giving a 26-year-old who is coming into his own a $6.5 million-a-year contract.
Martin, a small forward who finished last season with the Atlanta Hawks, is the less noteworthy signee-to-be. The former Kansas State product has bounced around between five teams in his six seasons in the league but has always been able to shoot the three. Martin has made good on 38.3 percent of his three-point shots since joining the league. He will most likely be an end-of-the-bench guy for Detroit who adds depth at the small forward position.
Apparently, Van Gundy and GM Jeff Bower mean business. While most of the league remains stagnant waiting for the LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony dominoes to fall into place, these two wasted no time in addressing Detroit’s number-one concern. Not a bad start, but what’s next?
Detroit has also reportedly engaged in talks with Kings’ point guard Isaiah Thomas, who is a restricted free agent. Today, the Kings agreed to a three-year deal with Collison so they appear ready to move on from Thomas. Rumor has it that there may even be a three-year contract worth $24 million from Detroit on the table. With current Pistons’ point guard Brandon Jennings under contract for two more years at the same price, I don’t see the sense in the team’s interest in the undersized Thomas. Whether this situation is resurrecting the Josh Smith trade talks with Sacramento remains to be seen.
Also, the team has reportedly made plans to meet with another shooting specialist, this time the former New Orleans’ Pelican Anthony Morrow:
Anthony Morrow is expected to meet with the #Pistons "early" in the free agency process…led the league in 3-pt shooting
— Vincent Goodwill (@vgoodwill) July 1, 2014
In light of the Meeks’ deal, the team’s plans to talk with Morrow may have changed, but we all know how much Van Gundy loves having a plethora of shooters. Stay tuned for the Pistons’ next move.