Jimmer Fredette is college basketball’s Tim Tebow: an excellent collegiate player with a huge and loyal following, but whose pro career has yet to panned out.
Both players had big question marks in their games entering the pro level that haven’t been answered the way they’d hoped. Tebow still can’t throw the ball and Fredette can’t guard anyone.
For Fredette to make it in the NBA, he needed to go to the right situation but was drafted to the worst team for him to succeed with. The Kings were a mess with a roster of selfish, shoot-first players like Tyreke Evans, Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Thornton, John Salmons and DeMarcus Cousins.
Yes, that team was actually assembled. No wonder the NBA wanted the owners of the Kings — the Maloof brothers — to sell so badly. They were the main reason Fredette was drafted to the Kings in 2011. The team was losing money and the most popular name with the biggest following in college sports was available. So the Maloofs went for jersey and ticket sales over who their scouts and management wanted. Klay Thompson or Kawhi Leonard both were available. The Maloofs' plan worked for a while since they had to have two full-time employees working on his jersey sales because the demand was so great.
The Kings also went through three head coaches in the 2 1/2 years Fredette was there. Paul Westphal, Keith Smart and Mike Malone aren’t the hottest names in the coaching circle and weren’t the right guys to help Fredette improve.
In every season, Fredette’s minutes went down, and the Kings finally released him during the 2013-14 season after not being able to move him before the trade deadline. Fredette was pick up by the Chicago Bulls but only appeared in eight games. He was stuck behind Kirk Hinrich and D.J. Augustin and played for one of the best defensive coaches in the league, Tom Thibodeau. Fredette’s butt was glued to the bench.
He hit the free-agent market in the summer of 2014 and took a one-year deal for the league minimum with the New Orleans Pelicans. The Pelicans could have been the only offer Fredette received. Fans hoped this was the place he finally would get a chance to show what he could do. The opportunity was there for the taking when Jrue Holiday went down with an injury. Surprisingly, not only did Fredette’s defense keep him out of rotation, but his 3-point shot failed him too, shooting a lousy 18.8 percent.
Now Fredette should hope and pray another NBA team will give him a chance. The scouting report on Fredette is he is a great teammate, a hard worker and a good shooter, even though he lost his touch this past season. He’s averaging 38 percent from the 3-point line for his career, but defensively he’s a huge risk on the court.
According to ESPN's real plus-minus, Fredette is “the worst defender in the entire NBA, 5.6 points per 100 possessions worse than an average player. He can't stay in front of anyone, and has a tough time contesting shots.” Matty Robinson of SB Nation who covers the Pelicans said, “Due to a lack of quickness Jimmer wasn’t able to keep players out of the lane and thus opposing point guards ran circles around him. When he was moved off the ball, physicality became an issue as he was too small to stay with nearly every wing in the NBA.”
Options for Fredette
In order to blossom he needs the right system with the right coach. Mike D’Antoni, the NBA’s Chip Kelly, might be the best coach for Fredette due to D’Antoni not stressing defense and for his ability in making Raymond Felton look like an actual point guard. However, unless D’Antoni gets the Denver Nuggets head coaching job, he won’t be coaching next season.
The Spurs have one of the best systems in the league that spreads the ball all over the court and need shooters. But they already have Patty Mills and Cory Joseph as options to play behind Tony Parker.
The Warriors and Hawks play similar systems to the Spurs. The Warriors don’t even play David Lee, their highest-paid player, because he can’t defend at a high enough level. The Hawks have Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder on the roster so that wouldn’t give Fredette much playing time.
The New York Knicks run Phil Jackson’s triangle. The Knicks could use Fredette to play the John Paxson/Steve Kerr role in that system. They also really need something to get their fan base more excited, and Fredette is part New Yorker, growing up in Glen Falls, New York. Their roster isn’t loaded with a top-quality point guard, and depending on how the draft breaks, the Knicks may not get one, so playing time will be easier to come by. This might be his best and only hope, but being coached by Derek Fisher and sharing the floor but not the ball with Carmelo Anthony probably isn’t an ideal situation for helping Fredette prove he can have a career in the NBA.
His other hometown team the Utah Jazz, where Jimmermania is alive and well, could consider adding Fredette. The Jazz need more shooting, something Fredette would bring. Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey has preached defense since his arrival, so adding arguably the worst defender in the league doesn’t seem like something he would do. If the Jazz wanted to add extra excitement to their youth program, they could sign Fredette to a cheap deal and make him the official Junior Jazz player who road trips around visiting Junior Jazz teams. Imagine Fredette walking into Provo High School during a visit; he may never make it out alive due to the rioting “basketball moms” fighting for a picture with their kid and a lock of Fredette’s hair.
A final option for him is to pack his bags and head to the Euroleague where he would have a better chance to succeed. There, Fredette wouldn’t be the defensive liability he is here because they don’t have the same kind of athletes that has made his life in the NBA so difficult.
Fredette is just asking for a chance to be put in the right situation that will allow him to make it in the NBA. But if that option doesn’t come, he may need to break out of the Tebow mold and play in a lesser league like Europe. He can bring Jimmermania back in full force and maybe fellow BYU Cougar Tyler Haws could tag along for the ride.
Kincade Upstill has lived in Utah County is entire life, graduated from BYU, and would follow the Jazz to the ends of the earth, if his wife and three daughters allowed it. Contact him at email@example.com on twitter @kincade12