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Why Aren't the Utah Jazz Interested in Free Agent Jimmer Fredette?

Apr 14, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Jimmer Fredette (32) warms up before the game against the Orlando Magic at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports
Andy BaileyFeatured ColumnistJuly 16, 2014

In 2011, a not-so-little basketball phenomenon poured out of Provo, Utah, and spilled all over America. It was called Jimmermania, and it was sparked by Jimmer Fredette.

The 28.9 points per game and long-range bombs Fredette produced as a senior at BYU led to the coining of a new verb.

As defined by Urban Dictionary, to be "Jimmered" is "To be repeatedly scored upon by Jimmer Freddette, with a variety of off balance 3 point shots, off balance drives, and amazing long shots."

New Mexico, Utah, Colorado State and San Diego State, particularly Kawhi Leonard, were among those who were "Jimmered" and gave up at least 40 points to Fredette during the 2010-11 season.

Jimmermania reached a fever pitch in March, when college basketball is generally in a state of madness. That month, Fredette averaged 34.4 points, 4.3 assists and 10.8 three-point attempts.

Fast forward three years, and he's now an unsigned free agent, whose name hasn't popped up anywhere. As teams have started signing players off the scrap heap, Fredette's prospects remain a mystery, and no one seems to care.

How did he go from Jimmermania to relative obscurity? And is he really worse than the other shooting and point guards who've already signed this summer?

Jimmer Fredette vs. Guards Signed this Summer
PERFG%3P%TRB%AST%STL%ORtgDRtgPTS/36
Jimmer Fredette15.847.147.65.722.21.410511018.9
Jodie Meeks14.746.340.14.18.52.111211317.0
Sebastian Telfair10.936.235.34.923.92.010011012.2
Brian Roberts13.442.036.04.722.11.310811414.6
Anthony Morrow13.945.845.15.76.71.411211316.1
Mario Chalmers14.045.438.56.224.32.910810611.8
Ben Gordon6.434.327.65.512.21.98010512.8
Steve Blake11.037.737.65.728.81.81031099.1
Beno Udrih12.743.845.25.428.01.910511111.2
Jerryd Bayless12.040.235.85.018.51.910310914.2
Luke Ridnour9.038.534.34.824.31.5951129.7
Rodney Stuckey14.043.627.34.712.71.410511318.7
Ish Smith11.742.34.37.226.02.4981079.3
Basketball-Reference.com

The hot streak that capped off Fredette's stellar senior season led to his being selected 10th overall in the 2011 draft, even as criticism revolving around his size and athleticism began to swirl.

ESPN's Chad Ford (subscription required) echoed the sentiments of pundits galore when he listed Fredette's weaknesses before the draft:

  • Not an explosive athlete
  • Indifferent defender
  • Lacks lateral quickness
  • Can he guard his position in the pros?
  • More scorer than distributor ... undersized if he's a two

The combine measurements database at DraftExpress shows that Fredette posted a better lane agility time than Isaiah Thomas, Brandon Knight, Kemba Walker and Iman Shumpert. He registered a better max vert than Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson and Chandler Parsons.

Even still, he couldn't shake the stigma. In the minds of many, Fredette was simply too small and not athletic enough to play in the NBA.

Those same critiques seem to be haunting him in 2014. Ask any friend what happened to Fredette and you'll likely get a response along the lines of "He's too slow. He can't guard anyone."

According to Daniel J. Flynn of Breitbart Sports, an NBA scout said:

Jimmer Fredette has never shown that he can do all that much in the NBA. He’s not playing against college kids. He’s playing against grown men, professionals. Everyone he plays against has great athleticism. Where’s the strength? Where’s the foot quickness? Where’s the length? He’s way down in the equation physically in the NBA.

Way down in the equation? All you need to do to know that's an overstatement is refer back to the combine database or take a look at the table above of guards who've already signed

The athleticism argument is tired, and it's never been backed up by concrete data.

As for the defense argument, there's certainly validity to that. Being effective on that end is more about effort than anything, and Fredette really didn't try in college, or for much of his NBA career.

BYU assistant coach Dave Rice addressed the topic with Pete Thamel of The New York Times back in March of 2011, saying:

A lot of that is really on us. We expect so much of him on the offensive end. We can’t afford to have him in foul trouble. He’s a much, much better defensive player than he’s given credit for. A lot of that is part of our game plan.

More specifically, the game plan was to put Fredette on one corner of a 2-3 zone and then proceed to have him do nothing.

Receiving that kind of coaching as a college player understandably led to bad habits, which in turn contributed to playing fewer minutes in each of his three years in the league.

SeasonTmLgGMPFG%3P%FT%TRBASTSTLTOVPTS
2011-12SACNBA6118.6.386.361.8331.21.80.51.17.6
2012-13SACNBA6914.0.421.417.8591.01.30.41.07.2
2013-14TOTNBA4910.6.471.476.9051.11.30.31.05.6
Career NBA17914.6.417.401.8571.11.50.41.06.9
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/16/2014.

What he needs is a coach who is determined to break those bad habits on defense and unleash his incredible scoring prowess on offense.

That coach could be Quin Snyder of the Utah Jazz.

Snyder is a former point guard, who's developed a reputation as a pick-and-roll expert during his time as a coach. And since being hired by the Jazz in June, he's preached defense in almost every public appearance.

The two could be a match made in NBA heaven. Unfortunately, Utah hasn't given any indication it's interested.

Actually, a Fredette/Utah homecoming story became something of a joke in Jazz fan circles following the media hoopla about LeBron James returning to Cleveland.

The really funny thing is how much better Fredette was than Utah's 2013-14 backup point guards:

Jimmer Fredette vs. Utah Jazz Point Guards
PERFG%3P%TRB%AST%STL%ORtgDRtgPTS/36
Jimmer Fredette15.847.147.65.722.21.410511018.9
Trey Burke12.638.033.05.329.41.010111514.2
Diante Garrett7.138.137.55.317.62.1871138.5
John Lucas, III5.232.629.83.811.11.2871169.7
Basketball-Reference.com

That's the thing about Jimmerpeople rely on subjective, opinion-based judgments about his physical tools, rather than looking at numbers.

From a purely analytical standpoint, there's no question Fredette's shooting ability would improve any offense in the league. Defensively, he needs some work, but he isn't worse off than a number of free agents who've signed this summer.

Shaking a stigma is apparently pretty tough. But it should be easier in the right situation.

In Utah, Jimmer would be embraced by the fanbase (although there'd likely be a few bitter, irrational University of Utah fans). He'd boost an offense that ranked 25th in points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com. And his ability to hit from the outside would open up driving lanes for Dante Exum, Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks.

What's the downside? That he'd play slightly better defense than any of Utah's point guards did last season?

When you wipe away the baseless biases Fredette's been branded with, this homecoming makes more sense than just about any other point guard signing this summer.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all stats are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.

Andy Bailey covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him at @AndrewDBailey.

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