WASHINGTON — Tim Frazier and Jodie Meeks, who joined the Washington Wizards this summer, will do more than share a backcourt this season. They’re neighbors off the court, too. Frazier and Meeks moved into the same building this summer and live a few floors apart.
“We hang out from time to time and play video games, try to get acquainted,” said Meeks at the team’s preseason media day Monday, adding they specifically play NBA 2K, Madden and FIFA. “He’s my point guard now, so I want him to look for me as many times as possible.”
Away from virtual basketball and on the real hardcourt, Frazier (a point guard) and Meeks (shooting guard) need their acquaintance to develop into easy chemistry. Their new jobs are to back up Washington’s star guards, John Wall and Bradley Beal. The Wizards hope the two new arrivals will provide more stability to their second-string backcourt and improve their bench production in 2017 and beyond.
“I think we’re off to a good start,” Frazier said.
Last season, Wall and Beal were generally relieved by point guard Trey Burke (12.3 minutes per game in 57 appearances) and shooting guard Marcus Thornton (17.4 minutes per game in 33 appearances). The Wizards also signed point guard Brandon Jennings in March, who helped through the late-season push and the playoffs. None of those players are on the squad this year.
To take their places, the Wizards traded their second-round draft pick (52nd overall) to New Orleans to acquire Frazier, then signed Meeks to a two-year deal in free agency.
Washington’s non-starters were among the league’s least productive last season. The team was second-worst in total bench minutes, points and assists; 25th of 30 teams in bench points per 36 minutes (63.4); and 24th in bench assists per 36 minutes (12.8), according to realgm.com. (Judging by 36 minutes is a way to measure production per minute played, rather than per game.)
The Wizards’ need for better bench production didn’t seem lost on Frazier.
“I think it goes the whole way with our second unit,” Frazier said. “Obviously, I will have the ball in my hands, so I’m just trying to get a feel for everybody, how they work, how they feel, where they want the ball and whatever I can do to help the team win.”
If Meeks scores and Frazier distributes the ball the way they did for their previous teams, that overall bench production ought to improve. Frazier is more of a traditional passing point guard, in contrast with the man he’s replacing, Burke, a scorer. Frazier averaged 7.9 assists per 36 minutes for the Pelicans last season, much higher than Burke’s 5.1 per 36.
Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said he considers Frazier, who entered the NBA as an undrafted free agent, “as tough a competitor as there is in the league” after spending time around him during the summer.
Meeks, meanwhile, scored 16.0 points per 36 minutes for the Orlando Magic last year, a better mark than Thornton’s 13.7 and Burke’s 14.6 for Washington. Meeks is also known for his touch beyond the arc, so he can maintain the Wizards’ supply of three-pointers whenever he enters for Beal.
“Jodie Meeks is one of the best shooters in the game,” Brooks said. “He’s had some unfortunate injuries the last few years. Hopefully we can keep him healthy and on the court. If you can do that, he spaces the floor as well as anybody in the league. He’s a 40 percent three-point shooter and he can knock down four or five in a quarter.”
To be precise, Meeks shot .409 from three for Orlando last year and averaged .388 over the last four seasons. That’s useful compared to the 2016-17 league average of .358 and Thornton’s mark last season of .350.
Meeks and Frazier also outstrip the former Wizards in the advanced metrics of “offensive rating,” which estimates how many points a player produces in 100 possessions, and “defensive rating,” which estimates how many points a player allows per 100 possessions.
Meeks’ 107 offensive rating essentially means he is five percent more productive on offense than Thornton was. Frazier, with his three years of NBA experience, replaces the two-man band-aid of Burke and Jennings at the cost of a late-second-round pick. And this doesn’t come at the expense of defense, as Meeks and Frazier fall in the same range of defensive rating as their predecessors.
Having a more productive bench would make Washington’s starters’ lives more comfortable. Forward Otto Porter Jr. is excited for the additions.
“Jodie brings a lot to the table. He’s a veteran guy, a professional, the three-point shooter that we need,” Porter said. “Tim, he’s a guy that has great experience. As a backup for John, he’s gonna do great.”
Porter said he and his teammates have had some time to get to know Frazier and Meeks during the offseason.
“We’ve definitely got guys that can come in and impact the game off the bat,” Porter said. “Just playing with them over the summer, you can kinda already tell that they’re picking (things) up, getting close to guys, and we’re making it easy for them to transition to helping this team.”