Can Tom Thibodeau Resurrect Jimmer Fredette's Career?

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Can Tom Thibodeau Resurrect Jimmer Fredette's Career?
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Between coach Tom Thibodeau's mastery of the defensive end and the fading pulse of his perimeter attack, Jimmer Fredette couldn't dream of a better NBA home than the Chicago Bulls.

Fredette, the 10th overall pick in 2011, suffered through two-plus seasons buried at the end of the lowly Sacramento Kings bench. His misery officially ended after he reached a buyout agreement with the Kings, as announced by the franchise Wednesday, according to The Associated Press (via NBA.com).

Fredette confirmed the end of his Kings tenure:

According to what a league source told ESPN Chicago's Nick Friedell, Fredette has made it through waivers and will now make his way to the Windy City:

This is not surprising.

On the strength of his three-point cannon, he had been sitting on the radar of the offensively challenged Bulls, according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein:

TNT analyst David Aldridge later reported that the interest was mutual:

Fredette needs a chance at finding his NBA niche, and the Bulls have a specialist's spot that plays perfectly to his strengths. The sharpshooter has his flaws, but this organization is built to mask them.

If Fredette has an NBA future in front of him, he'll find his takeoff point in the Windy City.

 

The Bulls Need What He Brings

Fredette was a redundant talent in Sacramento, a shooter surrounded by score-first guards. That was a problem upon his arrival, and it only grew worse with time.

His stat sheet bore the brunt of that damage, as his playing time plummeted from 18.6 minutes per game as a rookie to just 11.3 this season.

He won't have that problem in Chicago. His deft three-point shooting (49.3 percent this season, 40.2 percent for his career) would be an instant lift for the league's 27th-ranked perimeter attack (34.1 percent).

Think of him as more of a "need-filler" than a "best player available" pickup, but he can help cure one of Chicago's greatest ills:

Although the stat sheet doesn't show it, the organization places a premium on shooting.

In 2010, it brought in Kyle Korver off the free-agent market and had J.J. Redick signed to an offer sheet that the Orlando Magic ultimately matched. Last season it brought in sniper Marco Belinelli, taking fliers on Vladimir Radmanovic and Daequan Cook. The 2013 draft netted the Bulls a smooth-shooting wing (Tony Snell) and a big man with range (Erik Murphy).

Not all of these moves panned out, of course, but not all of them had Fredette's shooting form or in-the-gym range either.

He has explosive ability that requires constant attention from the defense. He shot 10-of-16 (62.5 percent) on spot-up triples this season and 12-of-29 (41.4 percent) from deep out of pick-and-rolls, via Synergy Sports (subscription required).

For all their work to find shooters, the Bulls have only two players shooting above 34 percent from outside (D.J. Augustin, 41.3 and Mike Dunleavy, 37.9). Fredette's worst shooting season saw him bury 36.1 percent of his perimeter shots as a wide-eyed rookie.

He's a natural fit for the Bulls, who have proven they can handle a player like this before.

 

Thibs' Track Record

Although the Jimmermaniacs would disagree, there have in fact been other players like him before. At least, the basic sense of what he is: strong shooter, score-first guard, questionable defender.

Do those descriptors ring a bell at all? Any current or former Bulls coming to mind?

How about the aforementioned Augustin? In early December the Toronto Raptors waived the former lottery pick, who was running out of NBA chances.

Then the Bulls came calling, and suddenly he's an electric scorer (13.4 points in 37 games with Chicago) and capable playmaker (5.5 assists against 2.1 turnovers).

Augustin, of course, isn't the only one.

Nate Robinson enjoyed a rebirth under Thibodeau's watch last season. Robinson's scoring climbed as high as it had been since 2008-09 (13.1 points), and his three-point shooting set a new personal best (40.5 percent).

C.J. Watson flourished during his second season with the Bulls (9.7 points and a career-high 4.1 assists in 2011-12). John Lucas shined in Thibodeau's system (7.5 points, 39.3 three-point percentage in 2011-12) and hasn't looked the same since he left (4.3, 30.7 this season).

Thibodeau needs his defenders, but he won't turn away offensive help. Carlos Boozer is still a member of this starting lineup last time I checked.

Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

Will Fredette inherit one of Thibodeau's trademark heavy workloads from Day 1? Of course not.

There isn't enough data available to see what type of player Fredette will be in a consistent role, or to find out what kind of collateral damage was done during his Sacramento stay.

The numbers we do have at our disposal, though, paint him as nothing worse than a rotation piece.

He's added nearly nine percentage points to his field-goal marks since his rookie season (47.5, up from 38.6) and more than 13 to his three-point percentage (49.3, up from 36.1). His player efficiency rating has climbed from 10.8 to 16.4 over that same stretch, via Basketball-Reference.com. His per-36-minute production is higher than it's ever been: 18.7 points, 4.7 assists, 3.5 rebounds.

He looks like someone in need of the one thing he's never had: a chance to succeed. And Thibodeau seems like the perfect coach to give him one.

 

Kinks to Work Out

Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

That's a nice way of putting it.

Fredette has one major hurdle no coach can help him clear—his physical limitations. He has point guard size (6'2", 195 pounds) without a point guard mentality. He's a solid athlete, but that means nothing in a league full of world-class specimens.

That's not going to change.

What could, though, are the steady streams to the basket he allowed in Sacramento. There's a defensive standard that needs to be met before floor time is awarded in Chicago.

Will Fredette pass that test? No one knows for sure, but this looks like the best environment for him to grow.

What type of NBA future do you think Jimmer Fredette has?

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If Thibodeau thinks he's worth the investment, then the coach will empty out all the defensive tricks he holds. While so many view Fredette as a sieve, word is he's more like a sponge.

"His work ethic and professionalism led management to offer glowing reviews to anyone who asked for background on him," K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune wrote.

A professional with a strong work ethic? I'd say Thibodeau can work with that.

Remember, the Bulls don't need a stopper. Chicago's presence is strong enough on the wing (Snell, Jimmy Butler) and down on the block (Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson) to withstand some defensive leaks.

The Bulls have the vision to spot talent that others can't see and the minds to mold those players into something of use.

Can they do the same with Fredette? With the raw ability he has, it would be more surprising if they couldn't.

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.

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