BYU v Kansas State

The Jimmer Fredette in the NBA debate rages on

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Want to start a fight in a room full of NBA scouts? All you need are two words:

Jimmer Fredette.

The BYU scoring machine divides them (like it seems to divide the commenters on this site). There are those that think he can be another Stephen Curry at the NBA level. There are those that think he will be the latest in a line of big-time scoring college players who flame out in the NBA, a proud lineage that stretched back through Adam Morrison to seeming eternity.

Count ESPN’s David Thorpe (a friend of this blog) in the camp of those not sold, as he wrote on the site Friday.

Fredette plays like a gym rat, with terrific ball skills and outstanding shot-creation moves. It’s clear he’s played thousands of hours of basketball. But to play as effectively as he has, a player must have the green light at all times. Watching him take so many bad shots in situations when he’s well guarded, we know he has the permission of the coaches and teammates, which must give him both confidence and a narrow focus. In the NBA, however, he won’t have anything close to that permission, at least not for many years. Adam Morrison suffered from this problem, and even in his rookie season he showed that scoring points inefficiently is not how to earn trust from coaches and teammates…

This is the problem with Fredette’s NBA future: It’s hard to imagine he’ll be able to play in the same manner he does now. But if he’s allowed to play like Jamal Crawford or Jason Terry, I could see him shooting a decent percentage and being capable of numerous big scoring nights off the bench.

Last season, Marcus Thornton was allowed to play that role, and on a bad team he excelled. This year the Hornets are strong, and Thornton’s role has lessened, as have his privileges as a shooter. He has to be more accountable now and, consequently, is less effective.

Which brings us back to what I think will be the two keys to Fredette making it in the NBA.

First, his mental ability to adjust. Fredette’s game is nothing like Morrison’s or J.J. Redick’s, but with those two you see the mental ability to adjust to the NBA game on display. Redick couldn’t defend when he got in the league, but he worked like a madman to put on some muscle and learn how to defend at the next level. He figured out how to fit his offensive game in a system. In the flip side, when Morrison was with the Lakers his teammates talked about how he could knock down shots like mad in practice, but his inability to defend or be efficient when he got limited chances killed him in the NBA.

Second, is fit. Whatever team drafts Fredette has to be one that will give him the room to improvise and take some bad shots. A team that can hide him on defense for a while.

Let’s put it this way — on Utah or Boston or San Antonio Fredette is never going to get off the bench. Not completely because of the talent in front of him but because he will struggle to fit in as a cog in a highly structured offense. Put him on Golden State or Phoenix or somewhere with more improvisation in the offense and he stands a chance.

But in the end, it will be in Fredette. Can he adjust mentally? Can he hone enough defensive skills to get himself on the court consistently? Does he have the toughness and work ethic to make it happen?

51Q: Does Ty Lawson vault the Rockets into the top tier of championship contenders?

DENVER, CO - MARCH 07:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets controls the ball against Ty Lawson #3 of the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on March 7, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockets defeated the Nuggets 114-100. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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I see five clear upper-echelon championship contenders –  Warriors, Spurs, Clippers, Thunder and Cavaliers.

Do the Rockets belong in that group, or do they fill the next tier by themselves?

Ty Lawson – acquired for pennies on the dollar – could put Houston over the top.

But, really, this premise might not be fair to the Rockets. They earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference last season and reached the conference finals last season. James Harden finished second in MVP voting. Dwight Howard looked like a star during the playoffs. The supporting cast – Trevor Ariza, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Patrick Beverley, Corey Brewer and even Jason Terry – played better than anyone expected. Young players like Clint Capela, K.J. McDaniels, Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell could make a leap at any moment.

There’s a case to be made we should have taken Houston more seriously even before trading for Lawson.

I didn’t, though, and I don’t think many others did either.

I suspect one of the biggest reasons is the Rockets’ balance. Houston – 12th in points scored per possession, sixth in points allowed per possession – was one of only two teams to win more than 51 games last season without ranking top five in either category. Of the seven teams with so many victories, the Hawks – sixth, seventh – were the only other. Atlanta was a darling team, winning 60 games after going 38-44 the season prior. The Rockets’ modest win increase, from 54 to 56, drew less attention.

But balance shouldn’t be punished. Houston’s surprisingly strong defense should be celebrated. Lawson might push its middling offense over the top.

There are reasons to question that, though.

The biggest is Lawson’s sobriety. If he’s not focused and engaged, this all goes out the window. His comments about going to rehab only because it was court-ordered raise doubts, though they hardly foretell anything.

Let’s say Lawson’s off-court problems are behind him. How big of an upgrade is he? The Rockets already had a pretty good point guard who fit well with Harden in Beverley. Lawson is a clear offensive upgrade, but in the biggest moments, the ball will still run through Harden. At that point, would you rather have Beverley or Lawson on the floor? Beverley is a far superior defender, and his off-ball offensive game isn’t far from Lawson’s. Beverley is is a fine spot-up shooter, and Lawson’s strengths involve having the ball and creating. Lawson’s biggest boost could come when Harden sits, but that was fewer than 12 minutes per game last season.

Sure, a secondary ball-handler could ease pressure on Harden throughout a long regular season. Lawson and Harden can take turns running the attack.

But we’re talking about title contention, and in those high-leverage situations, it’s Harden’s show. How much does Lawson matter then?

The Rockets have a chance to win a championship. As good a chance as the NBA’s five best teams? I’m not so sure.

UNLV following Kentucky’s lead with combine for NBA scouts

Goodluck Okonoboh, Patrick McCaw
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Kentucky held a two-day combine last season for NBA scouts.

Now, LSU and UNLV are following suit.

Rob Dauster of NBC Sports:

The Runnin’ Rebels will hold their event on October 23rd and 24th at the Mendenhall Center, UNLV’s practice facility, sources told The expectation is that all 30 NBA teams will be in attendance.

LSU has potential No. 1 pick Ben Simmons and another first-round prospect in Tim Quarterman.

UNLV features lottery prospect Stephen Zimmerman.

This won’t replace scouts attending games and watching practices, but the fact that all 30 teams plan to attend shows how seriously the pro league takes these. No college team wanted John Calipari to have that competitive advantage in recruiting, so the smart ones are leveling the field with their own combines. Soon, more college teams will follow.

As the calendar gets packed, NBA teams might have to pick and choose which they attend. At that point, we might get little clues about which prospects they’re scouting hardest.