How the Sacramento Kings' Jimmer Fredette Can Get His Career on Track

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How the Sacramento Kings' Jimmer Fredette Can Get His Career on Track
Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sport

From the day he was acquired by the Sacramento Kings, Jimmer Fredette's career has been on a fast track to nowhere. 

As a rookie, he averaged over 18 minutes a game. In his second year, he was down to 14. And now during the 2013-14 season, Fredette's playing just 11.3 minutes a game.

His scoring numbers have naturally declined as well—from 7.6 to 7.2 to 5.9.

With his playing time being slashed, his role constantly in flux and Sacramento bringing in more guards each offseason, you'd think Fredette's career would be falling apart. And based on basic numbers like points and minutes per game, such a conclusion wouldn't seem far-fetched.

But when you dig a little deeper, it's clear that the only thing needed to get Fredette's career on the right track is a new role (possibly with a different team)—a role in which he would actually play.

Fredette entered the league as a just-under-6'3" combo guard who spent 37 percent of his time on the floor as a shooting guard during his first two seasons (53 percent last year). In 2013-14, he's been at point guard 70 percent of the time, almost exclusively backing up Isaiah Thomas after Greivis Vasquez was traded to the Toronto Raptors.

If he stays in Sacramento, a move to shooting guard could get Fredette's career on track.

 

Shooting Guard

Playing point guard for the Kings makes little sense for Fredette, considering what's going on in Sacramento at shooting guard:

That prompted me to ask, "What's wrong with trying Jimmer there?"

To which Zach Lowe of Grantland responded:

Fredette has the reputation of a terrible defender, something he earned in college at BYU. Prior to the 2011 draft, ESPN New York's Ian O'Connor said, "He didn't play any defense at BYU because he wasn't asked to play any defense at BYU."

But his shortcomings on that end are no worse than Marcus Thornton or Ben McLemore's. Granted, both are taller (Thornton's listed at 6'4", while McLemore is 6'5") and more naturally suited to defend 2s, but their defensive ratings (number of points allowed per 100 possessions) are 111 and 112. Fredette's is 111. That may come against backup point guards, but the point is the gap isn't drastic (if it exists at all).

And the vast superiority of Fredette over McLemore and Thornton offensively would make up for a slight downgrade on defense.

His numbers are so much better than the 2 guards who get minutes (both more than double Fredette's playing time at over 23 a game) that it's almost laughable. First, look at basic stats measured per 36 minutes as opposed to per game:

 

Player FG% 3P% FT% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PTS
Jimmer Fredette .476 .475 .933 4.1 5.1 1.0 0.3 3.5 18.7
Ben McLemore .366 .329 .806 4.2 1.5 0.7 0.3 1.6 11.8
Marcus Thornton .381 .302 .816 4.2 1.6 1.0 0.3 1.2 12.2
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/4/2014.

 

And even more telling than that are a few advanced numbers:

 

Player PER TS% eFG% AST% TOV% ORtg WS/48
Jimmer Fredette 16.9 .580 .562 24.9 17.7 106 .082
Ben McLemore 7.4 .473 .439 6.2 11.6 95 .004
Marcus Thornton 9.8 .480 .452 6.8 8.7 101 .034
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/4/2014.

 

Fredette is significantly more efficient, distributes the ball and has contributed to more wins than either of Sacramento's current shooting guards. The upgrade offensively would outweigh the size difference on the other end.

Plus, having to defend opposing 2s would push Fredette. You get better at basketball by going up against competition that's better than you. I'm not saying he'll become a lockdown defender, but ruling out any growth at all is just as outrageous.

Developing at shooting guard seems like the logical way to get Fredette on track as a member of the Kings, but that doesn't mean he can't be an effective point guard elsewhere.

 

Point Guard

If Fredette's going to get his career on track as a point guard, he'll likely have to be traded to a team on which he can play more than 11 minutes a game.

He's been in the rumor mill ever since the Kings declined to pick up the option on the fourth year of his rookie contract. USA Today's Sam Amick commented on the rumors last month:

The former BYU star deserves immense credit for his professionalism in these last few frustrating years, and that's the very reason you won't likely hear him complain publicly (or even privately) about his lot in Kings Land. But with Sacramento hoping to get at least a second-round draft pick in return for him in any possible deal, count me among the masses who hope he's on the move sooner rather than later and that he finds a better fit elsewhere.

If whatever team lands Fredette is looking for a point guard, it'll get one who can shoot off the pick-and-roll as well as just about any player in the league.

If you've watched many Kings games this season, you've seen plenty of plays like this:

Or this: 

Fredette's ability to knock down shots that are both off the dribble and off ball screens is reminiscent of a young Steve Nash—so much so that fans in Sacramento are starting to say as much:

Now, before you go off saying it's completely ridiculous to compare the two, take a look at a couple comparisons and remember that no one knew Nash would be a first-ballot Hall of Famer after his third year in the league:

Jimmer Fredette's First Three Seasons Compared Steve Nash's
MP PTS PER TS% AST%
Jimmer Fredette 15.1 7.0 13.2 .530 16.9
Steve Nash 20 6.7 13.1 .528 26.7

Basketball-Reference.com

Now, check out the per-36-minutes numbers of each during their third seasons:

Jimmer Fredette's Third Season Compared to Steve Nash's
PTS/36 AST/36 REB/36 TS% AST% PER
Jimmer Fredette 18.7 5.1 4.1 .580 24.9 16.9
Steve Nash 8.9 6.2 3.2 .471 27.2 10.9

Basketball-Reference.com

I'm not saying Fredette is destined to become a two-time MVP, but you can't ignore the similarities between him and Nash—and, in some cases, Fredette's superiority.

If he continues to improve the way he has been over his first three years (his PER has gone from 10.8 to 14.6 to 16.9 from 2011 until now), he can be a very capable starting point guard. Or perhaps, a combo guard off the bench who could provide a spark like Jason Terry did for the Dallas Mavericks.

But even if Fredette is unable to get his career on any of the tracks laid out above, he can still be a valuable contributor in other ways. There is one irrefutable fact about his game: The guy can flat-out shoot.

And in a league that's becoming increasingly dependent on threes, a player who shoots 47.5 percent from that range this season (and 39.7 percent for his career) should always have a shot as a specialist.

There's nothing wrong with that. Tony Allen, Kyle Korver and plenty others in the NBA have made great careers for themselves out of being specialists.

But don't count me among those who think that's the only path for Jimmer Fredette. He has the potential to get on a fast track for something more.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all stats are courtesy of Sports-Reference and NBA.com and are current as of Feb. 4, 2014.

Andy Bailey covers the NBA for Bleacher Report.

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