The Sacramento Kings drafted former BYU guard Jimmer Fredette with the 10th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft with the idea that Fredette would be a key cog in the Kings’ drive to get a new stadium. He was supposed to excite fans and bring ‘Jimmermania’ with him from where it left off in the NCAA tournament.
He wasn’t supposed to adjust or fit in. He was supposed to shine.
At least, that was the insanely, illogical, overly-optimistic idea that some Fredette fans had entering the season.
Instead of picking up where he left off at BYU, where he led the nation in scoring and made dropping 30+ points in a game look as easy as picking up a check at Chilis, he struggled.
There’s no way around it. This current Jimmer Fredette, if we look at his overall body of work in his rookie season, isn’t the one we have grown to know and love.
Fredette, a pure shooter with endless range and an arsenal of offensive shots and moves, is averaging (at the time of writing this article) just over 38% shooting from the floor, 7.4 points, 1.7 assists, and 1.1 turnovers.
That’s the bad (statistically).
The good can be found in his points based off of his minutes, while he’s also connecting on 37.4% of his three-point attempts (leads the team), and has shined in extended action.
Unfortunately, he hasn’t seen much “extended action”, and when he has, it’s been sporadic and/or short lived. For example, Fredette has just 22 games with over 20 minutes logged. He has just three with over 30.
In the games where he played 30+ minutes, Fredette has performed well, using his extra time on the floor to gain confidence as a shooter, scoring 14, 19, and 20 points.
There’s no argument for Fredette’s need for improvement as a passer. He’s had his moments, while also having his struggles as a passer and ball handler. But his shooting and overall scoring ability has been on display when he’s had time and shots.
But if Fredette can hang with the big boys at the highest level, then why is he riding the bench most nights, when the last pick in his same draft class – Isaiah Thomas – is the starting point guard?
The answer is likely because Thomas is (right now) the better passer and creator. He is shooting a better percentage from the floor, and he plays better defense more consistently.
I won’t argue against Thomas, because he’s proven his worth. But there is an argument for whether he should have ever had the chance to.
The simple fact is, Fredette never received the chance Thomas did. Yes, he started a few games early in the year when Marcus Thornton sat out with an injury (and fared well, by the way), but he never had the opportunity Thomas currently has (until Thornton went down last night), and that’s to start the game and play on the court with both Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton.
When Fredette was on the court, Evans was running the point, or Fredette ran the point but he had one less scorer/shooter with Thornton usually out. Thomas, on the other hand, generally has an advantage with that extra elite offensive player on the court playing with him.
But aside from who he’s playing with, Fredette still hasn’t had anything close to the opportunity Thomas has been handed. He hasn’t had anywhere near the vote of confidence or support from his coaching staff.
Any way you shake it, Fredette is still the 10th overall pick from last year’s draft, and Thomas is still the final pick of that same draft. Fredette is bigger and stronger than Thomas. He’s a better shooter and scorer, and he was drafted to be an impact player. And he’s not being given the chance to show if he’s going to be that guy or not.
And the worst part is, everyone is casting him aside like another Adam Morrison “white guy” bust, when he hasn’t even had the chance to be a bust.
If you do end up deciding that Fredette can’t hack it in this league because he’s not on the court enough, doesn’t score enough points, shoots poorly, or a isn’t a great defender, perhaps you may want to take a look at two point guards that were selected ahead of him in the 2011 NBA Draft for a little perspective.
Fredette has been criticized heavily all season for having an inconsistent shot and overall offense, but he’s not the only high profile rookie who has had a difficult time transitioning to the next level.
Charlotte’s Kemba Walker was drafted before Fredette, and he’s actually shooting a worse percentage from the floor at just 36.9%, and is converting on barely over 30% from long range. In fact, he’s not even blowing people away as a distributor, either, as he’s averaging just 4.2 assists, while turning the ball over 1.7 times per game.
Despite all of this, Walker is currently a starter and averages over 26 minutes per game on the year (8 more than Fredette).
Another comparable player is Detroit’s Brandon Knight. Knight is also a starter currently, averaging just over 12 points per game on the year. He’s slightly better from the floor than Fredette and Walker (40.2%), and is right up there with Fredette from long range at (36.7%).
However, Knight hasn’t proven to be a pure point guard just yet at the highest level, as he’s dishing out just 3.7 assists per game while coughing up the ball to the other team 2.6 times per game. And Knight is averaging over 32 minutes per game (13 more than Fredette).
Walker and Knight are getting the opportunity to start or are at least playing 26+ minutes on a consistent basis. Their teams are clearly behind them, and for no good reason, Fredette’s team is clearly not.
To make matters worse, the Kings aren’t even a winning team. At 19-34, they have virtually no shot of reaching the playoffs this year.
The sad truth is, no matter what you case is against Fredette as a pro, he just isn’t supported by his coaching staff. Paul Westphal, the guy who was giving Fredette 25+ minutes per game and supporting him, was fired just a few games into the season.
Once Westphal was gone, so was Fredette’s support system. With Westphal gone and former Warriors head coach Keith Smart taking over, Fredette gradually saw his minutes and role decrease.
Suddenly, on February 2nd, Fredette was served a DNP, despite piling on 71 points in a five-game stretch. He got another one the next game, and proceeded to crack 20 minutes in a game just twice over his next 13 games. And he also had two more DNP’s tacked onto his rookie resume.
Before and likely during all of this, Fredette heard whispers from Keith Smart and Bobby Jackson that he wasn’t ready to run the point. His driving into the lane was uncontrolled. He wasn’t athletic enough, quick enough, explosive enough, to consistently score against opposing guards.
Rather, the slow, unathletic Fredette needed to pull the trigger more if he wanted a real role – if he wanted a real future.
And that’s the hardest part to swallow. Especially since Fredette performed extremely well in all of the pre-draft drills, comparing nicely (if not flat-out beating) the likes of Walker, Knight, and Kyrie Irving (and Thomas) in the most important athletic tests.
But while those guys are seeing major minutes on the big stage, Fredette is waiting for an injury or Keith Smart to be gracious enough to let him see the court for more than 10 minutes.
So, is Fredette a bust?
No, not yet. But if he does end up being one, it’s become pretty clear it has very little to do with whether or not he can actually play. The kid can play. He just needs to be given the chance to.