Kennedy Meeks arrived in Chapel Hill as a McDonald's All-American, but weighed 317-pounds and struggled to stay on the court, seeing just 16 minutes per game. By his sophomore year, Meeks shed 40 pounds and posted an improved, albeit inconsistent season that culminated in a Sweet 16 loss to Wisconsin. While the talented big man showed flashes of dominance early in the season, he faded mightily down the stretch, struggling with knee injuries and scoring a mere 7.3 points per game on 49% true shooting percentage over his last 10 games. With his junior season right around the corner, scouts will be watching to see if Kennedy Meeks is finally ready for a breakout campaign.
At 6'9 with a 7'0 wingspan and reportedly down to 265-pounds, Meeks is undersized for the center position in the NBA, even if this rarely seems to affect him at the collegiate level. This is due to his unique combination of strength, mobility, and high skill-level as Meeks has no problem powering through defenders of all sizes as a sophomore. On the other hand and though he has strength and talent to spare, he does not possess prototypical NBA-caliber athleticism for his position, as he is very much a below the rim player. For this reason, scouts will be watching to see if his improved frame and a healthy offseason afford him an athletic boost as a junior.
On the offensive end of the floor, Meeks saw over 90% of his possession around the basket and averaged an impressive 18.5 points per 40 minutes pace adjusted while utilizing 23% of North Carolina's possessions.
On the block, Meeks demonstrates soft hands with the ability to carve out space in the post and a willingness to bully his way to the basket. He had no problem backing down collegiate big men, even if he at times struggles to finish over players that he could not simply power through. He has very good shooting touch and nice footwork on the block, but due to his average length and explosiveness, isn't the most efficient threat with his back to the basket, converting under 40% of his field goal attempts in these situations last season. Meeks is just an average passer as well, generating an assist on just 8.7% of his possessions, even though he does not turn the ball over very frequently.
Considering Meeks' lack of size and average athleticism, it seems like he will have to find other ways to score against NBA level competition than strictly with his back to the basket, even though post-ups make up a significant portion of his touches at the college level.
Where Meeks shows real promise is as an offensive rebounder. He is averaging a career 4.7 offensive rebounds per-40 at North Carolina thus far, as he has terrific hands and great instincts for pursuing loose balls, being a little bit quicker off his feet than you might suspect. His soft touch around the basket helps him significantly as a finisher here as well, as he converts nearly 65% of his non-post up attempts around the basket in the half-court overall, which is a terrific rate. These same attributes make him very effective as a cutter, running the floor in transition (which he does surprisingly well), and finishing on pick and rolls. He sets excellent screens, and has very nice timing rolling to the basket, where his soft hands and touch allow him to finish the job effectively, despite his lack of length and explosiveness.
At 6'9, it's very likely that Meeks will be asked to spend quite a few minutes at power forward in the NBA, something he rarely does at UNC. While bruising big men in his mold where once very much en vogue in the past, Meeks will likely need to expand his shooting range significantly to make the transition to power forward realistic. He hasn't shown much of a jump-shot in college yet, hitting just 5 of his 15 attempts from mid-range last year, and 62% of his career free throw attempts. His touch and form shows some promise, though, even if his release is quite slow, so it's possible he may be able to develop this part of his game in time, something he'll likely need to do.
Defensively is where NBA scouts will likely have the most question marks regarding Meeks' pro potential. His limited physical attributes make him best suited to guarding power forwards, but there are real questions about whether his lateral quickness is sufficient to step outside of the paint on a consistent basis, particularly in pick and roll situations. As a center, he is decidedly undersized and lacks the length and explosiveness to be much of a shot-blocking presence.
With that said, inside the paint, Meeks does a solid job of defending the post. He is difficult to move off of the block due to his wide base and is active enough to stay with most players around the basket. Likewise and though he is not a great athlete, his timing, wingspan, and nose for the ball allow him to block 2.0 shots per 40 minutes pace adjusted and grab a very solid 7.1 defensive rebounds.
Scouts will want to see how his improved conditioning affects his play on the defensive end, as showing the potential to guard power forward style players in the NBA could be a huge boon for his draft stock.
Playing for one of the projected top teams in college basketball this season, in a featured role, Meeks has a major opportunity to show what type of NBA prospect he is. He not only must prove that he can dominate at the collegiate level, but he will also have to show that he is capable of contributing against NBA athletes on both ends of the floor on a nightly basis. Thus, scouts will be watching to see if Meeks is better conditioned and more consistent as a junior. Early season matchups against Maryland, Texas, and UCLA will be particularly revealing, therefore, as Meeks not only has a lot to prove as a prospect, but also to a team that needs major production from its talented junior center in order to make a NCAA Tournament Final Four run.