No matter how you slice it, Jimmer Fredette struggled during his rookie campaign with the Kings. And with the recent addition of point guard Aaron Brooks, speculation concerning Jimmer's future in Sacramento is a-swirlin'.
The 2011 player of the year in college basketball averaged just 7.6 points in 18.6 minutes a game during the 2011-12 season, his first in the NBA.
While no one's asking me to make excuses for Jimmer's lack of initial production, there are definitely some clear indicators for why he struggled and why it's still reasonable to expect him to be worthy of his lofty draft position (he was the 10th pick in the 2011 class).
First of all, any great athlete will tell you confidence is paramount for success. I'm not inside Jimmer's head, but the coaching change he went through last year would shake most guys. Former coach Paul Westphal had a little faith in Jimmer. Current coach Keith Smart does not.
Despite his obvious scoring prowess, it was clear from day one on the job that Smart wanted to remove Fredette from the Kings rotation.
The most plausible explanation would be Fredette's seeming lack of desire to defend. There are some guys in the league who can get away with lousy defense; Jimmer's not one of those guys yet (and hopefully he'll improve his defense to the point where he doesn't have to be).
Whether it was defense, or some other reason, Smart started hacking Jimmer's minutes and the young guard's confidence appeared a bit shaken following the change. His numbers dipped in three consecutive months until April when Smart finally conceded to let him play again.
Jimmer proved that when given the chance, he can be very productive on offense. He played over 30 minutes in just four games last year and averaged 18 points while shooting 43 percent from the field and 56 percent from three-point range in those contests.
Those four games were a rarity for Jimmer not only in terms of minutes played, but also in touches.
Another reason Jimmer struggled was completely out of his control. He played for a team with several ball-stoppers who seemed intent on not swinging the ball to him no matter how wide open he was. Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins love to score, but the king of this bunch is Marcus Thornton. There may not be another player in the league who more actively hunts his own shot (possibly Washington's Jordan Crawford).
Having a coach who doesn't believe in you and teammates who don't believe in passing can make it difficult to get hot from the field and Jimmer was often railed by critics last year for his shooting percentages. It's interesting to note that even with those factors working against him, Jimmer shot the ball better than fellow rookie Kemba Walker (who received nowhere near as much criticism for his percentages).
Jimmer shot 39 percent from the field, 36 percent from three-point range and 83 percent from the free-throw line. Walker registered percentages of 37, 31 and 79.
So, back to the possibility of a Jimmer Fredette trade. The Kings now have Brooks, Thomas, Evans, Thornton and John Salmons: a glut of guards. It appears there may be no room for another scoring guard on this roster.
But there could be a spot on another team. The obvious possibility for sentimental reasons is the Jazz. Jimmer became a national sensation during his senior season at BYU in Provo, Utah and would instantly generate buzz and revenue if traded there to play again.
It makes sense from a basketball standpoint as well. Last year, Utah was 27th in three-point percentage and 28th in three-pointers made. One of their biggest weaknesses is one of Jimmer's biggest strengths.
He would make a solid backup for recently acquired Mo Williams, as the two are both capable scoring guards. Jimmer could also log minutes at shooting guard as a catch-and-shoot option.
Another possibility is the Phoenix Suns. Arizona is another state with a high Mormon population, which would help him become an instant fan favorite there as well. The Suns also have to be considered as they had Jimmer on their radar during the 2011 draft.
All of this of course is speculation at this point. Either way, Jimmer seems intent to show he can have a great NBA career, whether it's in Sacramento or elsewhere. NBA Summer League doesn't mean much, but Jimmer has scored 49 points in the Kings last two summer games.
There may be nothing in sports that makes me happier than seeing a player prove the critics wrong. Tebow shut plenty of people up last year. LeBron shut me up this year. Hopefully, Jimmer continues the trend next year.
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