Jimmer Fredette's draft stock seems to have the sports world more shaken up than the O.J. Simpson trial and Michael Jordan's first retirement combined.
OK, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration. But as you've probably noticed, it has become impossible to turn anywhere for sports news and not find a segment or an article about why teams should avoid taking the guard who supposedly isn't a true point guard that can't play defense.
Let's start with the positives.
The kid can shoot with the best of them. The former Cougar shot 45 percent from the field, just below 40 percent from beyond the arc and almost 90 percent from the foul line. While these numbers are already pretty impressive, they don't tell the whole story.
How much better would Jimmer's percentages be if he wasn't the lone source of scoring on his team? Jackson Emery and Brandon Davies were the next two leading scorers at BYU this past season and their combined scoring average was more than five points less than Fredette's.
Not to mention that Jimmer didn't have Davies for tournament—the forward who led the team in rebounds and assists until his improbable suspension.
So, what did the critics say after Jimmer's sidekick got booted from his squad? Many respected and acclaimed college basketball analysts wrote the Cougars off for an early tournament exit, and I didn't expect too much either.
In spite of this, Jimmer averaged over 32 points per game in the NCAA tournament, carrying his bunch to the Sweet 16 before being stifled by a deep Florida team.
He's clearly a leader on and off the court, and appears humbled by the idea of playing for his favorite team.
So what's his downside?
He will be the palest guard in the league since Eric Piatkowski, but I'm not so worried about that.
Many criticize his defense, claiming that he is either uninterested, untalented or both. This is a hot topic for Jimmer haters, frankly, because it's an easy one to point out.
Don't worry; I'm here to defend his defense (or lack there of).
As I mentioned earlier, Fredette was basically a one-man show on the offensive end. So how would his team have fared if their only scorer was on the bench during critical minutes due to foul trouble? Surely we'd be reading columns accusing him of not having his priorities straight had he done so.
In a recent USA Today article, NBA scouting director Ryan Blake explained, "'Some of the questions about Fredette's defense,' Blake said, 'stem from the guard having to stay out of foul trouble as he accounted for much of BYU's offense.'"
Preach to 'em, Ryan Blake!
While I'm not predicting that Jimmer is going to be making any NBA All-Defensive Teams, it seems clear that his flaws were overexposed by his environment.
This wouldn't be a problem for the Knicks. As Billups' backup, his fouls aren't going to be all that crucial, nor would he play the minutes for that to be a factor.
Do you really think that as a lifelong Knicks fan and New York native, he would shy away from competition? In the NBA, Fredette will no longer be vastly physically superior, so being lazy on defense could mean the difference between being the sixth man and being the 12th man.
So this can go two different ways.
The first is that Mike D'Antoni can get his hands on Jimmer, making him a dangerous pick-and-roll point guard while also continuing to make him a defensive liability (as most players are in D'Antoni's system).
The other way this could go (my preferred way), is that D'Antoni is sent packing and a more balanced coach is brought in to change the Knicks' bad habits.
The idea that Jimmer is physically incapable of playing defense is preposterous. He has excellent body control, and just as he listened to his last coach's orders to not play defense, his body appears capable of doing otherwise.
I've also been hearing plenty of complaints declaring that Jimmer isn't a true point guard and that he isn't a gifted passer.
His average of 4.3 assists per game in college isn't the most impressive stat, but as we've already covered, he didn't have too many options.
However, many scouts, including those at DraftExpress.com, justify Jimmer's game, telling, "Yes, BYU's offense started and finished with Fredette, but he always seemed to be a willing passer, able to hit the open man if the defense starts to focus too much on him."
Am I saying that the Knicks need to put all their eggs in Fredette's basket? Of course not. All I'm saying is that Walsh and D'Antoni should be willing to trade ahead of the Jazz at No. 12 to acquire this kid, if the price is right.
The Knicks are built as a win-now team and need the role players to act like one. Their roster was less deep than pretty much any team in the playoffs aside from Miami, and they couldn't even win without a reliable supporting cast.
Aside from a starting center, the Knicks' biggest hole is finding someone to bring the ball up the court when Billups needs a breather. Hopefully Walsh and D'Antoni don't overlook Jimmer's upside.
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