Can Jimmer Fredette Make a Real Impact for Defensive-Minded Chicago Bulls?

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Can Jimmer Fredette Make a Real Impact for Defensive-Minded Chicago Bulls?
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

After reaching a buyout agreement with the Sacramento Kings and clearing waivers, sharpshooting guard Jimmer Fredette signed with the Chicago Bulls for the remainder of the 2013-14 season. He was never given a legitimate chance to shine in Sac-Town—playing just 11.3 minutes per game under head coach Mike Malone—but playing in Chicago may prove to be the perfect situation.

Fredette played more than 20 minutes in a game just twice for the Kings in 2013-14: on Jan. 14 against the Indiana Pacers and Feb. 12 against the New York Knicks. Despite a clear lack of regular playing time, the former Brigham Young standout averaged 5.9 points on a robotic 49.3 percent shooting from three-point range—a percentage that would rank him No. 1 in the NBA if he notched enough minutes to qualify.

Tom Thibodeau’s defensive-minded Bulls have continued to win games consistently due to a hard-nosed style of play. Despite sporting a 33-26 record, though—fourth-best in the Eastern Conference—Chicago ranks last in the Association by scoring 93.3 points per game and 27th in offensive efficiency with a mark of 98.9 points per 100 possessions.

The Bulls’ offense has been anemic during the new campaign after losing Derrick Rose (injury), Nate Robinson (free agency) and Marco Belinelli (free agency).

Those three losses have hindered Chicago’s ability to score and limited the roster’s overall depth, but Fredette has a chance to remedy that by providing instant offense off the bench.

 

Spreading the Floor

Jimmer’s ability to stretch the floor on offense with deadeye shooting is his biggest asset. For Coach Thibodeau and Bulls fans, that skill will undoubtedly be a sight for sore eyes.

Only three teams in the league have attempted fewer three-point shots than Chicago during 2013-14 (the Charlotte Bobcats, New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies), per Basketball Reference.

Of course, that’s probably a good thing, because the Bulls are shooting just 34.4 percent on said threes—ranking them tied for 25th. Only four teams have been worse in that regard.

D.J. Augustin and Mike Dunleavy have been the only reliable outside shooters in the Windy City, shooting 42 and 38.4 percent, respectively.

Fredette, however, can instantly remedy that shortcoming.

NBA.com/Stats

According to NBA.com/Stats, the 25-year-old is shooting above league average from nearly every spot beyond the three-point arc. He’s 8-of-9 overall in a limited sample size from the corners, while shooting 42.9 percent from the right wing and 50 percent from the left wing.

NBA.com/Stats

Even from straightaway, the gifted shooter is knocking down 38.1 percent of his long-range attempts, which is still comparable to league average.

His ability to rain down from outside will be huge in an offense built around Joakim Noah—who has essentially invented a new position of point center.

The 29-year-old big man is averaging 7.2 assists per game dating back to Feb. 6 against the Golden State Warriors when he dished out 11 dimes.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
After reaching a season-high 14 assists against the Knicks on March 2, Noah deflected praise.

“It’s really all my teammates,” he said, per the Associated Press (via ESPN). “I think we’re getting better every game.”

If Fredette can earn some regular playing time in Thibs’ system, he may be a new favorite target of Noah’s savvy passes. The 6’2” guard is shooting a scorching-hot 50 percent on catch-and-shoot threes, according to NBA.com/Stats.

When he gets a chance to set his feet in catch-and-shoot situations, Jimmer is one of the best in the business from long range.

 

Can He Get Court Time?

If Coach Thibodeau has proven anything during his time patrolling the sidelines, it’s that he values defense.

Power forward Carlos Boozer learned that lesson the hard way, as his minutes in the fourth quarter of games have declined. He voiced his frustrations with that parable in February, per ESPN’s Nick Friedell:

Thibs fired back with the following quote via the Chicago Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley:

I have two guys that are deserving of being starters. I’m asking Taj to sacrifice not starting, and in some cases Carlos has to sacrifice not finishing.

Sometimes you have to sacrifice what might be best for yourself for what’s best for the team. That’s what I love about Taj. Taj could be upset he’s not starting. He never complains. Whatever you ask him to do he just goes out there and does it. To me, what he does speaks volumes. He’s not talking about it. He’s going out there and doing it.

Fredette is coming from a toxic system in terms of defense. Sacramento ranks 25th in defensive efficiency by surrendering 106.5 points per 100 possessions.

As a result, it will be interesting to see if he can gain favor from his new coach by primarily excelling on just one end of the floor.

Of course, Robinson—who is now with the Denver Nuggets—earned court time even though he would force ill-advised shot attempts from time to time. Fredette is a better pure shooter than Robinson; so don’t be surprised if he carves a niche on his new team even though he’s far from a lockdown defender.

Will Jimmer Fredette play meaningful postseason minutes for the Bulls in 2014?

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If there’s one thing Chicago needs as it gears up for an Eastern Conference playoff run, it’s offense. Fredette should be able to provide a spark off the bench as a heat-check guy who can put up points in a hurry from beyond the arc. However, he’ll have to learn Thibodeau’s system on both ends before he’s inserted as a consistent rotational player.

With that said, even Augustin carved out a role for himself despite getting waived by the Toronto Raptors earlier this season, which seemed like a long shot at the time.

"I see how this team plays and they play hard every single night and for each other," Fredette said prior to his debut against the New York Knicks, per the Chicago Tribune. "They play the right way and that’s something I was looking for, to come into a team where I could fit in and play the way I wanted to and play hard every night and be part of a team. I’m excited to be here."

Thibodeau appreciates players who work hard and sacrifice for the team. If the third-year pro can do both those things, he could easily establish himself as an X-factor for the Bulls.

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