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Kennedy Meeks looks to make a name for himself in the NBA Summer League

Kennedy Meeks arrived in The Six as a man on a mission.

Gonzaga v North Carolina Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Kennedy Meeks was picked up as an undrafted free agent by the Toronto Raptors following the NBA Draft. The 6’9 F/C from Charlotte went through a lot of transformation during his time at UNC, both in physical build and in his skills as a player. In his first two games of the NBA Summer League, Meeks has been able to show off things we didn’t see a lot at UNC.

When Meeks arrived on campus, he arrived as one of the bigger centers that UNC had seen in a while. This isn’t referring to his height, however, as he arrived on campus weighing 317 lbs. One detail about Meeks before he arrived on campus, however, is that he had a mid-range to three-point game under his belt as well.

If that isn’t enough evidence of his ability to shoot, he also showed off his stroke during this year’s ACC Barnstorming Tour:

Meeks spent his UNC career playing the center position under Roy Williams. With that, it is no secret that Roy wants his centers to play as a true center in his system. As far as public record goes, Meeks had no issues complying with how he was going to be used for UNC. Needless to say everything worked out, as he finished his UNC career with two ACC regular season titles, an ACC Tournament title, two Final Four appearances, two National Championship appearances, and a National Championship title on his resume. He also finished his senior season averaging 12.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, and one assist per game.

In his first couple games with the Toronto Raptors, Kennedy Meeks is doing as much as he can to prove that he belongs on an NBA roster. So far, Meeks is averaging 13.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game following the first two games of the summer league.

While this is a small sample size so far, there are a few things to take into consideration. The first being that Meeks only saw nine minutes of action coming off the bench in the second game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, in which he scored 12 points and four rebounds and shot 70% from the field (he also made one of his two three-point attempts). The second part to consider is that Meeks is playing at the power forward position for the Raptors, as opposed to the center position where he spent his UNC career.

Does this mean that Meeks will end up on an NBA roster come this fall? It’s way too early to tell, and there are a lot of factors that go into making that happen. Being an undrafted free agent is quite the mountain to climb, especially considering you’re not just competing with players currently on an NBA roster but you are also competing with players like Pascal Siakim from the G-League. What is easy to say is that it may have been worth it for NBA scouts to take a much harder look at what Meeks is able to do, especially considering what the league is looking for in their centers and power forwards these days.

One reason why Meeks wasn’t considered more as a second round draft pick was that this draft class was loaded. Meeks is a very good player, but sometimes the NBA Draft really does come down to a science in terms of when you should consider going into the draft. This was something that was mentioned former UNC teammate Tony Bradley when he was going through the draft process, as he was told by NBA execs that he would get drafted somewhere in the middle of the first round if he waited until next year’s draft.

Another reason why Meeks didn’t get drafted may have to do with how he was used at UNC. One could argue that the way Roy Williams uses his big men doesn’t allow for NBA scouts to see the full range of what they are able to do, and they would have a valid point. However, the argument could also be made that the way NBA scouts may rely to heavily on college game footage when evaluating players. Think that sounds silly? Did anybody really know how well Carmelo Anthony could play man-to-man defense coming out of Jim Boeheim’s system? Take a second to think about that one.

Finally, with all these reasons outside of Meeks’ control that may have played a role in how NBA scouts looked at him it could just be that his skill-set didn’t exceed the players that did get drafted. There are definitely weaknesses in Meeks’ game that may have been too much to overcome when NBA scouts were looking at him, such as foul trouble, guarding more athletic big men, and his conditioning. The latter of these things are crucial in the NBA, as power forwards are becoming more and more athletic. If Meeks can prove that he can improve these things, it’ll be interesting to see what happens going forward.

There is a lot of time between now and the start of the NBA regular season for Meeks to make a name for himself and make his way onto the the Raptors’ roster. He did sign a partially guaranteed deal already, so at worst he will play for the Raptors 905, who are the defending G-League champions coached by UNC alumni Jerry Stackhouse.

The next game for the Toronto Raptors will be against the Denver Nuggets Monday at 8:00pm ET on ESPNU.