The Toronto Raptors have agreed to a partially guaranteed deal with undrafted free agent Kennedy Meeks, according to a report from Shams Charania of The Vertical.
The senior out of North Carolina was among the names the Raptors brought in to BioSteel Centre during the pre-draft workout process, and when he didn’t hear his name called on Thursday, it stood to reason that the Raptors would make an inquiry. Landing Meeks without acquiring a second-round pick is a nice piece of business, although he was expected to slide outside of the 60 names chosen, anyway. Prior to the draft, Meeks was ranked anywhere from 65th to outside of the top-100, a wide range speaking to disagreement about his ultimate NBA potential.
Some analytic models looked favorably in the 22-year-old despite being a senior, which is encouraging. In his fourth year at UNC, Meeks averaged 12.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, one assists, 1.2 blocks, and one steal, shooting 55.5 percent from the floor. That’s something close to in line with his production in the three years prior, though it was his best rebounding and shot-blocking year and his highest-usage role yet. It’s expected that seniors will play a little better, but doing so in an elite conference is still a good sign.
In Meeks, the Raptors land a very smart and skilled player, one who knows his way around the paint, can read the floor, and has the soft hands required to finish in close or kick back out to the perimeter. He doesn’t have much of a face-up game and never hit a college three (he only attempted one), but he can do enough in the post to be a factor, using his strong frame to work his way into space or move others off the glass. He has better mobility than his frame would suggest, too, a sort of agile below-the-rim player that’s somewhat rare. Defensively, he’s a less sure bet to contribute, as he isn’t particularly athletic and doesn’t measure exceptionally well at center (a 7-foot-1 wingspan and 8-foot-10 standing reach), where he’ll have to play. He figures to be a pretty solid rebounder at that end, anyway.
Despite Meeks being 22, the Raptors may see some upside to still tap into. Over the years, Meeks has done a great job changing his body, and he weighs 20 pounds less now than he did in high school. The Raptors may think that with the additional guidance of an NBA staff, Meeks could work his way to being more functionally athletic, and it’s pretty clear he’s willing to do the work from the progress he’s already made.
Fans will probably be familiar with Meeks from his appearances in the NCAA Tournament, where he was a beast on a big stage. He didn’t have the best of games against Gonzaga in the National Championship (seven points, 10 rebounds, two blocks), but he was a monster against Oregon in the Final Four (25-and-14 with three steals) and posted double-digit rebounds in five of the team’s six tournament games. He also had a great showing in the live action portion of the combine, though his defensive shortcomings were on display there, too. If he can play with that same intensity with regularity, it will make up for some of his deficiencies, because he has the body and strength to be a force on the boards.
Details of the contract weren’t immediately made clear, but it will be interesting to see what the specifics are. Charania reports that it’s a partially guaranteed deal, but the new collective bargaining agreement clouds what, specifically, the deal may be. In prior years, the Raptors could give a player any guarantee they wanted, and then if he was cut in camp, they’d have the option to make him a D-League Affiliate Player, with the guarantee working as sort of a supplement to the D-League salary (if the player was open to it). Yanick Moreira and Jarrod Uthoff received these kind of deals last summer, and Axel Toupane, Shannon Scott, and Michale Kyser the year before that.
That remains an option now in the G-League setup, but there are a few tweaks worth mentioning. The NBA now gives teams a pair of additional “hybrid” roster spots for two-way contracts that allow the player to split time between NBA and G-League, increasing their salary to as much as $279,000 (rather than $26,000 plus whatever camp guarantee they received). You can read more about that here, I won’t bog you down with details in this post. What’s important to note is that Charania didn’t specify the deal was a two-way deal, which likely means the Raptors are giving Meeks a guarantee and keeping their options open. The deal probably contains what’s called an Exhibit 10, which will give the Raptors the option to convert the contract to a two-way contract sometime before the start of the NBA season (assuming his guarantee isn’t for more than $50,000, which would then make him ineligible).
If you don’t care for those details: It’s probably the usual Summer League and training camp deal you’re used to, Meeks may be on the radar to become a Raptors 905 piece if he’s open to it, and the Raptors could have the option to convert the deal to a two-way contract. This probably doesn’t have a big impact on the NBA side unless the roster changes significantly this summer, or Meeks really impresses.
This isn’t the steal of the century or anything, but Meeks is a really strong rebounder, a talented scorer and passer in the post, and a player who may have some upside remaining despite being 22. As far as quickly signed undrafted free agents go, it’s a nice fit, and he’ll slot in behind Jakob Poeltl on the roster for Vegas, when we’ll get to see how his development is coming along.