There was no more divisive, controversial figure in the 2011 NBA draft than Jimmer Fredette.
Scouts were split on Fredette and how he’d fit in the NBA. There was no question the man could shoot the rock, but in college the offense was geared toward him with the ball in his hands, plus his defensive problems were not exploited. The question was whether a GM thought he could adapt his game to the NBA where he would have to work more in a system. The Kings believed he could, they traded down to get him at No. 10 — ahead of Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, and Markieff Morris.
But after four unimpressive seasons in the NBA, his career seems to be over for now after being cut by the Spurs this week. Fredette likely is headed to Europe or somewhere else, but for now his NBA career is over.
What happened? Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports spoke to scouts and his former coaches and got a frank assessment of a guy not willing to adapt his game.
“Jimmer thinks everybody is stupid,” said an NBA assistant who worked with Fredette. “He thinks everybody needs to come and just turn over their offense and let him shoot it anytime he wants. That’s not how the league works….”
“He won’t adjust his game for it,” he said. “He’ll tell you, ‘This is what I did at BYU.’ Well, BYU, that’s a long time ago.”
This happens to good players in every professional sport. They are used to being huge stars — the best player on their high school team, their AAU team, and likely their college team, and everything was geared around them and their skills. Then they get to the NBA and they need to accept life as a role player and cannot. They are convinced that what worked so well before will continue to work, despite all evidence to the contrary.
Fredette (and the cult of Jimmer fans) thought he was a Stephen Curry style point guard who could score and run the offense, just nobody ever gave him that chance. The reality is he simply not good enough to do that at the NBA level — he doesn’t have the playmaking skills, he doesn’t have the athleticism. However, the bigger issue was always defense. The last couple seasons, when he would enter the game the opposing point guard’s eyes would light up — teams ran sets to go right at Fredette because he couldn’t stay in front of anyone. It was that defense that kept him off the court more than anything in New Orleans last season, a team that was in desperate need of point guard help.
Fredette needed to adapt his game, and the comp everyone around the league seemed to use was J.J. Redick, now with the Clippers.
“J.J. is a good example for him,” one of his NBA coaches said. “He had done a lot of prolific scoring in college, but came in and eventually figured out the NBA. He changed his body. He learned the league. He’s had a hell of a career, but it wasn’t easy for him early on.”
It took Redick almost five seasons in the league to adapt his game to the point he was a valuable contributor (now on a contending team, where his shooting is key to the Clippers spacing). He’s talked many times about those challenges. And let’s not forget, Redick is two inches taller and a better athlete than Fredette ever was.
If Fredette goes to Europe, maybe he can find his stroke and a way to fit into a team that will someday allow him to come back to the NBA and contribute. Maybe. The question is does he want to make that kind of commitment and change?