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The Jimmer Fredette in the NBA debate rages on

Feb 4, 2011, 5:05 PM EDT

BYU v Kansas State Getty Images

Want to start a fight in a room full of NBA scouts? All you need are two words:

Jimmer Fredette.

The BYU scoring machine divides them (like it seems to divide the commenters on this site). There are those that think he can be another Stephen Curry at the NBA level. There are those that think he will be the latest in a line of big-time scoring college players who flame out in the NBA, a proud lineage that stretched back through Adam Morrison to seeming eternity.

Count ESPN’s David Thorpe (a friend of this blog) in the camp of those not sold, as he wrote on the site Friday.

Fredette plays like a gym rat, with terrific ball skills and outstanding shot-creation moves. It’s clear he’s played thousands of hours of basketball. But to play as effectively as he has, a player must have the green light at all times. Watching him take so many bad shots in situations when he’s well guarded, we know he has the permission of the coaches and teammates, which must give him both confidence and a narrow focus. In the NBA, however, he won’t have anything close to that permission, at least not for many years. Adam Morrison suffered from this problem, and even in his rookie season he showed that scoring points inefficiently is not how to earn trust from coaches and teammates…

This is the problem with Fredette’s NBA future: It’s hard to imagine he’ll be able to play in the same manner he does now. But if he’s allowed to play like Jamal Crawford or Jason Terry, I could see him shooting a decent percentage and being capable of numerous big scoring nights off the bench.

Last season, Marcus Thornton was allowed to play that role, and on a bad team he excelled. This year the Hornets are strong, and Thornton’s role has lessened, as have his privileges as a shooter. He has to be more accountable now and, consequently, is less effective.

Which brings us back to what I think will be the two keys to Fredette making it in the NBA.

First, his mental ability to adjust. Fredette’s game is nothing like Morrison’s or J.J. Redick’s, but with those two you see the mental ability to adjust to the NBA game on display. Redick couldn’t defend when he got in the league, but he worked like a madman to put on some muscle and learn how to defend at the next level. He figured out how to fit his offensive game in a system. In the flip side, when Morrison was with the Lakers his teammates talked about how he could knock down shots like mad in practice, but his inability to defend or be efficient when he got limited chances killed him in the NBA.

Second, is fit. Whatever team drafts Fredette has to be one that will give him the room to improvise and take some bad shots. A team that can hide him on defense for a while.

Let’s put it this way — on Utah or Boston or San Antonio Fredette is never going to get off the bench. Not completely because of the talent in front of him but because he will struggle to fit in as a cog in a highly structured offense. Put him on Golden State or Phoenix or somewhere with more improvisation in the offense and he stands a chance.

But in the end, it will be in Fredette. Can he adjust mentally? Can he hone enough defensive skills to get himself on the court consistently? Does he have the toughness and work ethic to make it happen?

  1. ac0117 - Jun 22, 2011 at 8:45 AM

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Thornton on the Kings now? And although he was on a bad team, I think he really played well as the number 1 option (Tyreke injury). No disrespect but I think your analysis is a little off on a lot of these posts.

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