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This is biggest point of contention about Jimmer Fredette. A little more explanation is needed here.
Say what you want about lateral quickness, length and jumping ability: Defense is about effort more than anything. Why was Bruce Bowen such a great defender? Ron Artest? Ben Wallace? Were these players the fastest, tallest and lengthiest players on the court? No, but they played like men possessed by demons in their prime.
We didn't see that type of effort from Fredette, but former BYU assistant coach Dave Rice's comments to the New York Times prove that we should hold criticism on the former BYU star until we see him in the pros.
“A lot of that is really on us,” Rice said. “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.”
Excuse my New York Knicks bias, but it's easy to pull an example from them to back up Rice's points. Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire are high-volume scorers who have not given full efforts on defense for most of their careers. However, their phenomenal defense has literally won two games this season. In February's Knicks-Heat game, Anthony led LeBron James into an Amar'e Stoudemire block, eventually leading to a 91-86 win. Last night, Anthony blocked Danny Granger's game-winning jumper attempt with under two seconds left, giving New York a 110-109 win over Indiana.
The talent is there for both Melo and Amar'e, but one can understand that if so much of a player's stamina is spent on the offensive end, it's only natural to take off on the defensive end.
Fredette had a 33.4-percent possession rate (a statistic measuring how often a player ends a possession via a shot attempt or turnover), the highest in Division I. He also created over two-thirds of his offense through January this season. It's natural for him to be more lax on defense and for BYU to tell Fredette to lay off getting into foul trouble on the other end.
Still, Fredette managed to get 1.3 steals per game, paling in comparison to Walker's 1.9 steals. Walker's defense, buoyed by his elite speed, is made more impressive by the fact that his possession rate was third in the country (30.7 percent).
Despite giving up an inch and 20 pounds to Fredette, Walker is a better defender because of his speed (most notably in his 33-point, 12-rebound, six-steal performance against Syracuse in the Big East tournament).