For the consensus 2010-2011 NCAA Player of the Year, Mayo and I decided a debate was necessary when talking about Jimmer’s NBA potential. Mayo took the “Pro” side and I took the “No” side. Mayo starts us off.
Jimmer Fredette, BYU, Sr. – PG
Mayo: Obviously, this debate isn’t going to be about whether Jimmer Fredette is going to get drafted, because he will–and it will likely be in the lottery. Seriously, Jazz fans must be foaming at the mouth for this guy to slide to them with either their sixth overall or twelfth overall picks. In case you haven’t been following, the guy is pretty popular in Utah . The argument here will really be, how good can Fredette be in the NBA? Is he a starter, role player? Does his career fizzle out? In my mind, the guy is probably the most skilled player in this draft. OK–that might not be saying much this year–but this kid can really light it up on the offensive end. In the NBA, if you do one thing exceptionally well, you can make a career out of it. Well, Jimmer has unlimited range and almost no conscience when it comes to letting it fly. I mean, if I were Pat Riley, I’d honestly trade Mike Bibby’s broken down body for Fredette right now. It will be interesting to see him adjust from being the do-absolutely-everything guy at BYU to playing within an NBA system alongside pros who will be none too happy if Jimmer makes that rise-and-fire 30-foot jumper a regular occurrence. He isn’t the best athlete but he has proven his scoring ability time and time again even with a more athletic defender on him. He’s a master at changing speeds and understanding angles, and he has a pretty quick release.
Giblin: Yea the guy can shoot. We get it. That alone will keep him in the league. But is a shoot-first point guard with limited athletic ability who plays NO defense really worthy of a lottery pick? Not in my mind. And who are we kidding? Jimmer’s a shooting guard. He may have brought the ball up for BYU but that’s about it. He only had a 1.2-1 assist to turnover ratio which is horrendous for a floor general. Maybe a few teams who run almost all isolation sets for their wings can live with Jimmer at the 1 on offense, but that’s only a handful of teams. Otherwise, he’s a shooting guard doing his best Steve Nash impression (which won’t be pretty). And do we even want to start talking about his defense? A 6-2 shooting guard who can’t guard a lick won’t make it in this league.
Mayo: Ok, so yes that 1.2/1 assist-turnover ratio is not something that anyone would be bragging about. But, look, we all watched BYU play at some point right? Who did he have to pass to on that team? I’d argue that Jimmer didn’t play one position on that offense, he was the offense. I’ve rarely seen anything like it in college basketball, actually. BYU’s entire offense revolved around Jimmer creating his own shot. They didn’t even really have another ball handler who could set him up for catch-and-shoot situations. And, yes, his defense was definitely sub-par, I can’t deny that. But, again, it was clearly part of BYU’s game plan to hide him on defense as much as possible because of how much energy he exerted on the offensive end. If he gets in a situation, and he will, where he isn’t asked to do as much on offense, I expect to see improvement in defense. Granted, he probably will never be an above-average defender in the NBA, but there are plenty of guys in the league regarded as superstars who are mediocre defenders. How many people are having much success guarding guys like Derrick Rose, anyway?
Giblin: He was the focal point of BYU’s offense, but there were some other solid college players on that team. It wasn’t like he was passing to you or me. That assist-to-turnover ratio is a concern for a guy who is going to be running some team’s offense.
But let me get this straight. He was a subpar defender in the NCAA, but his defense is going to improve against guys like Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, etc.? There’s no “hiding” players in the NBA. It’s all MAN-TO-MAN DEFENSE. No zone in the league son! He’s going to have to guard someone and whoever he guards is going to be able to blow by him with relative ease. He won’t be a mediocre defender in the NBA- he’ll be abysmal. NBA teams with a Dwight Howard-like center behind him will be able to survive, but most teams don’t have that type of shot-blocking center.
Mayo: Defense is obviously going to be the major question—even though NBA teams are running some zone packages these days, thank you very much. But, you are right that the superstar point guards in the NBA are going to be on the attack when he’s guarding them, at least until he proves he can do it. The bigger point guards like Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook will probably give him some problems, but my thing about defense is that physical deficiency can be made up for at least in part with great effort. I’ve mentioned this previously but it might be worth repeating: how many guys are having success guarding guys like Derrick Rose anyway? The way teams use the pick-and-roll in the NBA now, defense is very much about quick rotations and weak side help. Fredette is obviously a pretty smart player so with that IQ and a consistent effort he could get to a point where, even if he is never the best one-on-one defender, he can be a contributor on that end of the floor.
I also think you don’t realize how little he had to work with at BYU. There was never a teammate that could take the pressure off Fredette by getting their own shot for stretches of a game. He had to set them up, and he had to set himself up. Period. Plus, everyone on Earth knew that, so he pretty much had all five defenders focusing on him on every possession. I’m very excited to see what he can do when playing with other NBA caliber players playing around him.
(That would definitely be the music for a Jimmer basketball mixtape.)
Giblin: Rose shot a pretty poor 37% in Round 1 of the playoffs. So I’d say the Pacers did a pretty solid job on him (even though Rose made some pretty incredible shots late in those games). Yea physical guards are going to be a problem for him, but speedy guards will be just as difficult with Jimmer’s lateral quickness. He’s going to have some serious problems guarding anyone in the NBA with his size and speed regardless of how well the rest of his team tries to cover his ass. And please name me the last time a team played more than 5 minutes of zone in a game. The 1940s?
Jimmer is an incredibly gifted offensive player. I can’t argue that. His shot alone will keep him in the league for a long time. But I seriously doubt his ability to get into the paint and create. That and his much argued defensive ability will ultimately decide how his career plays out.
I’ll leave it to Mayo for the Best/Worst case scenario for Jimmer’s NBA career.
Best Case: I’m surprised we haven’t heard more Fredette/Stephen Curry comparisons. I think there are a lot of parallels. Offensive do-it-all guys coming from smaller programs. A question as to whether he can play the NBA point guard position first because of how much they had to be scorers in college and from a defensive perspective as well. Unquestioned shooting ability. Worries about size—more so on the bulk side than height and length.
So far, so good for Curry.
And, if Jimmer’s career follows that same blueprint—and I know Curry is still a very young player—I’d have to imagine he would be very satisfied. People forget that NBA “experts” (used in the loosest way possible) were very much on the fence about how effective Curry would be in the league, much like they are about Fredette.
Worst Case: Fredette will always be able to shoot, so he should be able to hang in the league in some capacity for a good number of years. For a guy with his ambition and potential, just hanging in the league as a bench player probably won’t be considered a huge success. Jimmer’s weaknesses are well-documented, and I think we covered what he’s going to have to prove in order to succeed. Gibs is correct: if he becomes a 6’2” shooting guard, he’ll become very familiar with sitting on the bench. He absolutely has to be able to be effective as a point guard and floor general in order to reach the level I think he can get to. He hasn’t had the chance to show us yet, but we will find out soon enough.