The Jimmer is an elusive creature, deftly mo — wait. Sorry. Pump the brakes. That’s not true at all. Sorry for almost lying to you. Any positive attribute describing Fredette’s aptitude to fluidly move on the hardwood is just wrong. Jimmer Fredette is many things. Athletic is not one of these things, as exhibited by his inability to push the ball in a fast break or move laterally to keep up with the Russell Westbrooks and Kyrie Irvings of the Association. Screeners in his face confuse him. But his jumper is accurate from such extraordinary distances that anything beyond 25 feet is “Jimmer Range” (or now “Steph Range,” because he’s actually doing substantial basketball things beyond jacking long treys). When he decides to take a PUJIT three, he’s one of the select players where it doesn’t seem like a terrible decision as the ball travels to the rim. The chance a Jimmer three-point barrage could begin is on just about every NBA fan’s “must see TV” list, no matter how infrequently it’s occurred so far.
But that was a regular showing at Brigham Young — threes on threes on threes finding the bottom of the nylon. Given four years at Brigham Young, playing 139 games with an average of 29.6 mpg, one would think enough of his game has been seen to prognosticate his NBA future. As the primary and secondary offensive weapon for the Cougars, posting a Space Jam Michael Jordan-type usage rate on his way to 28.9 ppg his senior year, earning just about National Player of the Year award that exists. In a particular college basketball season particularly devoid star power, hailed as the weakest draft in years before the following year’s weakest draft in years, Fredette shined brightly, exploding for multiple 40-point games, potentially responsible for violations of the BYU Honor Code and countless grown men screaming “JIIIIIIIIIIIMMEEEEEEEER!!!!!” which just seems wrong. Who doesn’t love Jimmer Fredette? Or at the very least, the idea of him?
The leap to pro hoops and the Sacramento Kings has been a different story as it has been with so many college stars in unique playing situations. No NBA team would require Fredette to replicate exactly what he did at BYU, nor would it be a feasible, sustainable strategy. With one discernible translatable, elite skill, just about every other part of his game is an unknown quantity in regards to development. He’s shown he can heat up and score when given the chance, but those have been few through two professional seasons.
The problem is that he was subjected to one of the worst organization situations in American professional sports: pathetic, relatively destitute owners who may/may not have pushed the general manager to perform one of the most curious draft trades ever (receiving John Salmons is almost always a net negative, not to mention moving down in the draft); two terrible, and ultimately fired, head coaches who failed to sufficiently develop players, were sclerotic in designing an offensive or defensive scheme to cater to players’ strengths; and a roster where he was, at best, the fourth guard, absent of any sage veteran to show him the deal. Suffice it to say those particular set of circumstances are not conducive for a draft prospect to flourish and improve. To this point, Jimmer’s been a plant locked in a dark, windowless tool shed during an everlasting solar eclipse because — ha! — take that, flower. Even if he broke the lock of the stacked guard rotation, he was never going to grow while entrenched in such dysfunction.
It bears noting that amidst the soap opera of a season that Jimmer improved from year one to year two, bumping up his PER from a lousy 10.8 to a below average 14.6 while playing almost 200 fewer minutes in eight more games (averaging 4.6 fewer mpg in a season littered with increasing competency). His three-point percentage jumped to .417 from .361 while shooting 60 fewer long balls. In 13 games with more than 20 minutes played, Fredette averaged 20.9 P36 on a .467-.500-.857 shooting splits. Sure, seven games were decided by double digits. OK, the Kings were 4-9 in those games. But there’s something to be said for his production. It’s not like the court was emptied so he could shoot around out of pity. He didn’t stand at the half court and begin dropkicking the orange for pure amusement, fortunately delivering the ball through the net, as entertaining as that would have been at BYU given some of those matchups. Just look at how he netted his career high 22 points last December against the Phoenix Suns. Solid stuff.
Fredette is enigmatic but with a set, adequate ceiling. There’s no debate, given his physical limitations (or as Kevin Love would contest, “whiteness”), whether an All-Star bid lies in his future. But he’s not anywhere close to achieving his potential. Rather, he’s not close enough for to evaluate whether he is. If one of the offseason’s golden quotes is any indication, this will be the first real NBA offense in which Fredette will play.
New head coach Michael Malone removed any ambiguity to Fredette’s position on the floor — he’ll be what he should have been all along: shooting guard. While the position is loaded against him, given Marcus Thornton, Marcus Thornton’s silly contract courtesy of former general manger Geoff Petrie and rookie Ben McLemore, the young King looks up to his BYU Bomber days in the (mostly pointless) preseason, averaging 17.2 P36 on a sick .516-.600-1.000 split. It’s definitely “fun with numbers” territory, as he played 88 minutes over four games. But it’s much, much more efficient than last year’s fake season numbers in more minutes.
The Kings will more likely than not pick up Fredette’s option for the 2014-15, theoretically making him an *unrestricted free agent, demanding to see more out of him. One game isn’t an appropriate sample size to conclude what Fredette’s future with the Kings will be. But he received a DNP as Thornton and McLemore filled the shooting guard minutes in the emotional 90-88 season opening win against the Denver Nuggets. Some team will surely bid for James Taft’s services, a will-be 25-year-old who can sit in the corner and shoot bombs, where, in 28 shots, he was 50%. His poor midrange game needs improving. Ultimately seeing him liberated from captivity will be fun. Just fly free at the three-point arc and soar, Jimmer. It’s time.
NBA Stats and Basketball Reference used for statistics; B-Ref used for salary information.