Even if Kobe Bryant’s recovery from Achilles tendon surgery hadn’t opened the door to a broader role for Jodie Meeks, the Pistons likely would have targeted the five-year veteran shooting guard. He was one of the elite shooters to hit free agency, and shooting, after all, topped Stan Van Gundy’s off-season to-do list.

But when greater playing time didn’t lead to any dips in productivity, Meeks became even more attractive to the Pistons. Meeks saw his minutes jump by more than 50 percent, but his scoring, steals and free-throw attempts all increased even when measured by per minute production.

“The path you always want to be careful of, as roles increase and minutes increase and expectations increase, that a player can keep pace with those increased expectations,” Pistons general manager Jeff Bower told me recently. “That’s really a test of a young player to develop from one level to the next. That was good to watch his progress in that regard. We had a good comfort level with that and we also had a comfort level that he has the competitive drive and the competitive instincts that he would bring to our team at that position.”

Van Gundy said the Pistons targeted about nine or 10 players after reviewing the crop of available free agents. Barely a week after free agency opened, they had reported agreements in place with five players. Meeks led the wave.

“Stan had discussions with his agent right at the beginning when we were permitted to and let him know our thoughts and plans and explained our roster and the role we had available and that we were looking at Jodie to fill,” Bower said. “That was a real important part of it. The second thing was to hear what Jodie’s expectations were and what he was looking for, because it’s real important to understand. Expectations have to fit from both sides. It’s very important to be candid and clear about what it is you’re looking for and what you expect the player to provide. When everyone’s expectations meet, it’s so much easier to move ahead quickly. That’s when you really have the right fit.”