NBA Draft 2011: Five Key Areas Jimmer Fredette Must Improve on to Succeed
Despite the fact that he probably won't be selected within the first 10 picks of the 2011 NBA Draft, Jimmer Fredette is the most discussed prospect on the board.
There are plenty of critics wondering whether or not he can succeed at the next level, and for some reason his doubters seem to believe he has absolutely no chance to improve on his weaknesses.
The biggest questions surrounding Jimmer Fredette concern his athleticism and defense.
In terms of athleticism, he may be as underrated as anyone in the country. Experts lead us to believe he's slow and glued to the ground. But that's simply not true.
He has a 36-inch vertical leap and was also recruited to play Division I football while he was in high school. He was a fantastic wide receiver and return specialist, and Fredette's quarterback had this to say about him:
"I remember him being just a straight-out athlete—I could put the ball anywhere, and he'd catch it. He's one of the most gifted athletes I've ever known. He still is a lot quicker and faster than people give him credit for."
All that is nice evidence for Fredette's athleticism, but anyone who actually watched him play more than a few games this year already knew he's a great athlete.
The elevation he gets on his jump shots, the way he makes defenders look foolish with his extremely quick crossover and his acrobatic finishes at the rim are all great displays of his physical abilities (the ones the experts tell us he doesn't have).
Plus, he went right by Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton whenever he wanted to when BYU met Florida in the NCAA tournament (both were supposed to be vastly superior athletes).
As for his defense, the questions there are legitimate. The thing is, we didn't really see what he's capable of defensively because of coaching.
Dave Rose had BYU run a zone for most of every game and allowed Fredette to stand around at the top of the zone. Many have speculated that this is because the team wanted him to save himself on that end of the floor and stay out of foul trouble.
Defense is all about athleticism and desire. Anyone who can average 29 points a game, scoring in such a wide variety of ways, has the athleticism to play solid defense.
The desire part can still be developed. You see, despite everything we've heard to the contrary, Jimmer Fredette does have potential and will get better at the things he isn't already great at.
Here are five things that he needs to (and will) improve on over the next few years.
Everyone's wondering whether or not Jimmer Fredette can defend NBA players. Right now, he probably can't.
He has shown flashes of decent defense at BYU, and has a foundation to build upon as he improves this critical part of his game.
He averaged 1.2 steals per game during his career. It's a decent number, but he'll be up against much better ball handlers in the NBA.
He may get to a point in his career where he can average one steal a game the way that Steve Nash did in his fifth season in the NBA. But we all know steals alone aren't a great indicator of defensive ability and effectiveness.
Actually watching Fredette play defense was painful at times. He often looked unmotivated and disinterested.
BYU coach Dave Rose allowed him to stand around at the top of the zone, without ever holding him accountable for playing defense.
In the rare situations when BYU did play man-to-man, Fredette didn't look awful, but he didn't look great either.
In reference to his shortcomings as a defender, assistant coach Dave Rice said, "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."
If a good defensive-minded coach can get a hold of him, he may be able to channel some of the gifts that help him to score toward defense.
He'll probably never be an elite defender, but he can certainly develop into a passable one (again, much like Steve Nash).
Attitude and effort are the keys, and Jimmer Fredette has those things in abundance when it comes to offense. If he applies them to defense, he'll be fine.
Of all the point-guard skills, this is the one Jimmer Fredette needs the most work on. He averaged 3.5 turnovers a game this past season and looked pretty careless with the ball at times.
At first, these issues will be painfully exposed at the next level and could be the biggest hurdle to him getting significant playing time.
I'm not saying he's a bad ball-handler, though.
In that regard, Fredette has been fairly underrated this year, but he'll need a lot of work before he gets to the level of an NBA point guard.
His crossover looks a lot like Deron Williams' (Fredette himself has said he models much of his game after the Nets' point guard), and he uses it as a great setup to his pull-up jump shot.
He's also shown the ability to split double teams, but the ball sometimes gets away from him in those situations.
He simply needs to work on his decision making, and NBA coaching will help him with that. After a couple years in the league, he'll be taking far fewer chances and won't throw the ball away as much.
If Fredette struggles to take care of the ball next year, plenty of experts will immediately label him a bust.
As a rookie, Steve Nash had a horrific turnover percentage of 24.2. Nash got better—Jimmer Fredette can too.
Fredette has a fantastic first step on offense. In that sense, his quickness is already NBA-ready, but I'm not going to argue that he's got as much overall quickness as Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook.
While this is largely a natural gift, it can be improved. There are countless exercises that can lead to improved lateral quickness, top speed and general explosiveness.
Improving on his quickness will help Jimmer Fredette on both ends of the floor.
Let me start by saying that Jimmer Fredette was one of the nation's most underrated passers this past season.
He averaged 4.3 assists a game, but that stat could have been much better if his teammates had been more consistent in finishing the opportunities he set up for them.
He can use his quickness and strength to get into the lane and draw defenders with him, then has the ability to find and deliver accurate passes to the open man.
He often did so with great creativity and style.
Even still, Fredette needs to improve his passing to be a great point guard at the next level. NBA defenders will play passing lanes a little better than Mountain West defenders.
He'll have to develop pinpoint accuracy and learn how to look off defenders.
Playing off the Ball
A lot of experts think Jimmer Fredette is better suited to playing shooting guard at the next level, but he is a point guard.
Being labeled a "tweener" is often a curse, but Fredette can use his versatile skill set as a combo guard to his advantage.
He has the ability and potential to become a great NBA point guard, but could also be a great situational weapon playing off the ball.
If he winds up playing for the Utah Jazz (where my most recent mock draft has him going), it could be fun to watch him convert assists from point forward Gordon Hayward.
If those two, along with Derrick Favors, grow into their full potential, they could become one of the best and most exciting trios in the league in three or four years.