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Monson: Jazz should consider drafting Jimmer

Published March 31, 2011 11:29 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Jazz will have two lottery picks in the June draft, so they can address at least a couple of their needs. One is outside shooting. One is selling tickets.

Hmmm. … Anybody come to mind?

Yeah, it's time to tackle the question: Is Jimmer Fredette a viable option for the Jazz? Or would he be a waste of a pick?

It's not as though they haven't scouted his games, along with every other NBA team. Twenty-eight of the 30 league clubs requested credentials at the Marriott Center this year, and the Jazz were foremost among them. Their personnel, including Kevin O'Connor, have watched Fredette play in person between 10 and 20 times. At least 25 scouts were on hand when BYU played at San Diego State.

What did they see?

They saw what we all saw: A point guard of average speed able to pass at a moderate level, able to split defenders and create his own shots off the dribble, able to penetrate to and finish at the basket, able to spot up and cross over and elevate and come off ball screens for crazy-long shots, hitting 3s from NBA distance and beyond at a clip of 40 percent.

They also saw undisciplined, out-of-control drives, forced shots and a loose handle that sometimes led to silly turnovers. They did not see a whole lot of defense.

One team executive who requested anonymity because he's not permitted to comment on prospects says Jimmer's offense is a go, but his defense is a real concern.

It's an assessment that bugs Fredette because, as he says it, "I don't think I get as much credit as I deserve on the defensive end. I can play defense."

Maybe, but there's not a lot of evidence. He's been working on his lateral quickness the past couple of offseasons to that end. It's just that he was not called upon as a lockdown defender at BYU. In fact, Dave Rose was counting on Fredette so much at the offensive end, allowing and preferring for him to dominate nearly every possession, that he preserved his main man on defense, especially in the zone, actually wanting him to coast.

Some say Fredette's style of play is not well-suited to the Jazz's more-structured offense.

But that presumes Jimmer is simply one-dimensional, only able and willing to attempt to shoehorn what he did at BYU into his new team's offensive sets.

No NBA team, be it the Jazz or any other, is going to turn its offense over to Fredette as a rookie and ask him to make the machine run the way he did as a senior at BYU. And Jimmer knows that.

If he actually were drafted by the Jazz, and if he had the ball in his hands, he would have offensive options that far exceed what he had with the Cougars. Think about the disparity of the comparison: At BYU, Fredette dribbling from 25 feet out, surveying the half-court, seeing Noah Hartsock and Kyle Collinsworth and Charles Abouo. With the Jazz, Fredette dribbling out front, seeing Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and C.J. Miles.

There are many more options in that second scenario, enabling Jimmer to get the ball where it needs to go, without having to force anything on his own. That changes the entire dynamic, and it makes Fredette a lot more valuable because perimeter defenders in the NBA often leave their man to give help down low. If they do that with Jimmer, he'll bury the 3. And if they don't give help down low, staying in front of Fredette wherever he goes, then that, by itself, is a huge benefit to the entire offense because it allows guys like Jefferson and Millsap to do their thing without a double-team on that side of the floor.

There aren't that many shooters, even in the NBA, who command that kind of attention. It's reasonable to expect that Fredette would. And his additional ability to move, keeping defenders off balance, and to flat-out score, as opposed to just sit back and shoot, could empower him to be the effective point guard he aspires to be.

In order to do that, he must become a deft and judicious passer, a skill he has partially mastered, but improvement there will be the difference between being a role player and having a real impact on games. If he's going to make it in the NBA, it has to be at the point. He doesn't have the length to be strictly a shooting guard.

Most of the NBA players Fredette played with in Las Vegas last summer were favorably impressed with his overall game and his mental toughness and wherewithal. Few question that last part.

If he were two inches taller, Jimmer would be closer to a can't-miss prospect. Still, his body is thick, which creates space for him, enabling him to better pass and shoot. His biggest challenge is at the other end. If he can find a way to D up, he'll be an asset. If he were only marginal, he has enough offensive skill, in transition and in the half court, to make him valuable.

It's worth noting that 15 years back, one pro scouting report on an unproven prospect read like this: "Biggest weakness is his man-to-man defense. His average foot speed makes him an easy target for small, quick point guards to blow by." And another: "Not slow, but not quick, improving but still a poor defender, had trouble getting his own shot against quality opponents."

That prospect? Steve Nash.

Just sayin'.

Whether you liked or didn't like Fredette as a collegian, and local crowds loved him enough to come in droves to see him play, this much is true: Dude can ball.

He is a viable Jazz option — with that second lottery pick.

GORDON MONSON hosts "The Gordon Monson Show" weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 104.7 FM/1280 AM The Zone. He can be reached at gmonson@sltrib.com.






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