Jimmer Fredette: Superstar or Bust?
By: Kim Berntson
No matter who you were rooting for in the 2011 NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament, you couldn’t help but notice the star power of point guard Jimmer Fredette. “Jimmer Mania” swept the nation as his former BYU team fought its way to the sweet sixteen. Though they lost earlier than expected to number 2 seeded Florida, Fredette’s performance throughout the season was one worthy of a standing ovation. He averaged 28.9 points per game with an incredible shot range, and proved that he could take it to the rim under pressure. He became BYU’s all time scoring leader with 2,501 points and holds the single season scoring record with 970 points in his senior year. With impressive stats and a great basketball IQ, he has potential to further his basketball career professionally. Not only is he a key playmaker on the court, but Fredette also demonstrated a strong sense of leadership among his teammates.
It’s no question that Fredette had an outstanding career at BYU, but he still has a lot to validate in his upcoming workouts, which will either make or break his future with a pro team. The real debate is whether or not Jimmer’s run in the NCAA will translate into NBA stardom (assuming there’s even a season next year.) I hate to be cynical, but more often than not many players selected high in the draft, specially shooters, turn out to be busts. They either serve as bench warmers or quit and take their talents overseas. I don’t believe that this will happen with Fredette as long as he’s selected by a team that needs his abilities and knows how to use him. While I don’t think anyone will go as far as giving Jimmer his own commercial endorsement before the draft even occurs (a-hem, John Wall), he’ll definitely be the topic of conversation among commentators.
So where’s Jimmer heading? There isn’t much superstar talent coming out of the NCAA this year, particularly in regards to the Shooting Guard position. Fredette has potential to go early in the draft, depending on the impact he makes in each of his workouts.
With one of Fredette’s biggest competitors Kemba Walker pulling out of the previously scheduled Sacramento Kings workout, there was no challenging Walker in a one-on-one setting. This is disappointing, because it was a matchup I would have most certainly paid to see. It is rumored, however, that the two will face off in a battle for the Utah Jazz in a workout on June 15th. Jimmer has a slight height and size advantage on Walker, while Walker has an edge in terms of speed. Both possess talents on opposite ends of the offensive spectrum. Fredette has nothing to lose in the contest, seeing as Walker is predicted to have the advantage. It could be a free ride for Jimmer as the number 7 pick if the Kings were to pass on Walker. They are in need of a point guard, and Walker is Fredette’s chief contender for this position.
Another team taking a close look at Jimmer’s aptitude is the Phoenix Suns. Steve Nash’s contract is up in a year, and it’s going to leave a huge void in the Suns’ lineup if he goes elsewhere. It wouldn’t hurt the purple and orange to have that extra PG ready to go on the bench. They are going to need some type of superstar talent if Nash leaves, and I’m not certain that Jimmer is the one to do that. The Suns have also recently voiced their doubts about his defensive abilities, which he seemed to lack in his former play. While I’m sure Suns fans would be happy to have Jimmer Mania added to their franchise, I don’t believe this is where he will end up.
At his workout with the Indiana Pacers, Fredette faced off against some stiff competition. Other players that attended include Nolan Smith, Tobias Harris, Marcus Morris, Vernon Macklin, and Jeremy Tyler. If the Pacers don’t decide to trade and stay with the number 15 pick, Jimmer has the potential to end up in Indiana. He impressed them with his shooting ability and focused most of his efforts on showing them his abilities on the defensive end of the court. The Pacers were reportedly impressed with what he showed off in the practice, but I’m doubtful that a PG spot is what they are looking to attain in the 1st round. What they really need is a power forward; one that can both score and defend. No matter how well he awed coaches, I can’t see Fredette living up to his potential if Indiana were to select him.
My prediction is that Fredette ends up with the Jazz if he doesn’t go to an earlier pick. I think it would be difficult for Utah to pass on a top ranked PG, let alone a BYU all-star. The Jazz is looking for someone to take the PG spot by the reins and their fans want nothing more than for Jimmer to do just that. Though his workout with the team is still in the near future, talk of selecting Fredette as their first round pick has already stirred up a buzz. Utah has almost no choice BUT to select the hometown hero to add to their roster. Although Kemba Walker and Fredette are scheduled to go head to head in the upcoming workout, I see Walker being chosen earlier than the number 15 pick and being unavailable for selection.
Through his Twitter account, Jimmer Fredette has had only positive things to say about every workout so far.
Jimmer Fredette’s Tweet:
“Knicks workout done and went well again today. Everyone worked hard again. Now back to Utah.”
Which leads me to the next team that I want to talk about, dare I say, the New York Knicks. It’s a stretch, but with the number 17 pick they could be taking more of a look at Fredette than we think. Jimmer, being a native of Glens Falls, NY, is a fan favorite of the team. The Knicks are no stranger to being attention grabbers in the media and relish being in the spotlight. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Knicks selected him if he was still available. Do I think he’s a good fit for the Knicks? Not in the least. They already have Andy Rautins posted up on the bench. The Knicks need desperate help on the defensive end of the court. When it comes to defense, Jimmer’s not your guy. However, recent comments in the New York Times by Fredette’s former BYU assistant coach Dave Rice state otherwise:
“A lot of that is really on us. We expect so much of him on the offensive end. We can’t afford to have him in foul trouble. He’s a much, much better defensive player than he’s given credit for. A lot of that is part of our game plan.”
While Jimmer’s been making an impression with his defense in his workouts, the Knicks need a lot more help in other areas of the game and Fredette isn’t a miracle worker. Then again, no one selected at number 17 will be a game changer for the Knicks.
I think it’s clear that sports analysts everywhere will keep a close eye on Jimmer no matter where he ends up in the draft. It will be interesting to see if he can live up to the expectations set forth by critics nationwide. We’ll see what happens come June 23rd.