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This Kennedy Meeks NBA Draft profile takes a look at one of the key pieces of the 2017 NCAA champion North Carolina Tar Heels.
Kennedy Meeks – 6’10″, Forward, University of North Carolina, 22 Years Old
Kennedy Meeks is a senior from UNC who was integral in winning the NCAA tournament last season and was arguably the Tar Heels’ best player all year. A highly touted prospect out of high school, Meeks struggled with his weight over the first few years of his college career. Meeks arrived at Chapel Hill weighing 320 lbs, but by his senior year, he had shed 41 pounds, down to 279. Despite this, there are still big question marks about whether or not he can keep his weight down because of his build. While his weight is problematic, it can also be used as an asset, as he has tremendously soft hands and touch around the rim for such a big man.
Meeks’ ability to finish around the rim and carve out space down low helped him average 12.3 points per game during his final year at UNC. Meeks has worked out for a number of teams, and if he is able to lose a little more weight and develop more of an outside shot, he has a chance to be a second-round draft choice.
Meeks, like most North Carolina big men, is an extremely polished scorer on the low block. Able to move a lot more smoothly than one would expect for a man his size, Meeks has a number of impressive moves in both the low and high post. Using his wide body, Meeks sets hard screens and has very good timing when rolling to the rim and sealing his man on the inside. He has shown an ability to make free throw line jumpers with consistency, an important asset in the pick-and-roll. If he is able to stretch that out to the three-point line, Meeks could carve out a niche in the NBA. The 22-year-old also has good passing instincts, both out of the post and as a roll man after setting screens.
Meeks is a fairly polished offensive player, but his rebounding is what makes him an NBA prospect. Meeks averaged 9.5 rebounds in his senior year at North Carolina. Because of his relatively short wingspan and lack of jumping ability, there are some question marks about whether Meeks can rebound outside of his area. However, Meeks’ positioning and physicality down low should allow him to do so. Last season, Meeks had a better offensive and defensive rebounding percentage than Jordan Bell, Edrice “Bam” Adebayo, Harry Giles, T.J. Leaf, Justin Patton, and Jarrett Allen. Meeks grabbed 25 percent of all available defensive rebounds last year on a team that also had two exceptional rebounders in Isaiah Hicks and Tony Bradley. This skill will translate to the NBA, where Meeks will still be able to push players around and gobble up rebounds.
Meeks will struggle on the defensive end of the floor. He does not have the foot speed to keep up with quicker NBA guards in the pick-and-roll. Hedging and recovering to his man will be very difficult for Meeks at the next level. It is hard to imagine Meeks being able to stop a Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love pick-and-roll. Similar to players like Jonas Valanciunas, Meeks is often late on his defensive rotations. He sometimes gives up easy layups to opposing players, not because he has a poor basketball IQ, but because he simply cannot get into position quickly enough. Another problem that Meeks will run into is trying to guard big three-point shooters like Frank Kaminsky or Ryan Anderson. Meeks usually clogged up the paint and allowed the much more mobile Isaiah Hicks to guard the quicker big men at UNC. Because of his bad foot speed, Meeks will struggle to close out against those big three-point shooters.
There are some clear limits to Meeks as an NBA player. He has some offensive talent and will be a solid rebounder at the next level. Unfortunately for Meeks, he will be a defensive liability no matter what he does. If he can develop a three-point shot and improve his motor on the glass so that he is an elite rebounder, then he could become a useful piece on an NBA roster. Whichever team he ends up on will have to closely monitor Meeks’ eating habits and keep him at 260-270 lbs if they want him to be even remotely effective on defense.
NBA Player Comparison
It is difficult to find a player comparison for Meeks because there are not a lot of players currently in the NBA who are like him. Perhaps the closest comparison is a better rebounding Lavoy Allen of the Indiana Pacers. He’s a big body with good touch who can knock down a 17-foot jump shot but has not yet extended his range out to the three-point line. Both players get beaten with speed on the perimeter too often, but they can play valuable minutes for an NBA team.