Posted: Tuesday June 21, 2011 11:33AM ; Updated: Tuesday June 21, 2011 3:24PM
Michael Rosenberg
Michael Rosenberg>INSIDE THE NBA

Fredette's NBA potential is unclear, but it's hard to root against him

Story Highlights

BYU's Jimmer Fredette is a likeable gunner who led nation with 28.9 ppg

Concern is Fredette may not be able to be scorer in NBA and can't play defense

Key for Jimmer is to find right team; Heat would be perfect but that's unlikely

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Jimmer Fredette is not the best player in this NBA draft, or the tallest, or the quickest, or the fastest, or the shortest. But he is the most controversial. It's not his fault. Fredette draws opinions like he drew defenders at BYU -- two come from opposite directions at the same time. He is a gunner and one of the most entertaining college players of the last decade, and this and plus there is the fact that ... he is white?

Yes. That.

The NBA is built on personalities. Even more than that, it's built on personas. We need some variety, and a short white dude from BYU who can fill it up would have a unique persona. (He would also make a great trivia question on Basketball Jeopardy: "This shoot-first guard's brother, a rapper, made him hone his game as a kid against prisoners." Jimmer! It's true. Look it up.)

So let me say, up front, that I want Jimmer (or The Jimmer, if you are so inclined) to succeed in the NBA. I want it for the same reason I wanted Allen Iverson to win and hoped Adam Morrison would not completely suck and wished Emeka Okafor would become the next Hakeem Olajuwon. I watch college ball and the NBA and I want a connection between the two.

Fredette averaged 28.9 points per game for a BYU team that averaged 81.4. Watching him was a pleasure. I would love to see his game translate to the NBA level.

Unfortunately, there is a disconnect between what I want and what I expect. Can Jimmer Fredette really be a key player on a contending team? He is a 6-foot-3 shooting guard who hasn't defended anybody in his life. You hear reports lately of his "surprising athleticism" in workouts. (I believe that 99 percent of the time, when a player is described as "surprisingly athletic" or "surprisingly quick," he is, not surprisingly, white.) But I'm very skeptical.

What worries me, mostly, is that his defense is not what worries me. Most rookies aren't ready to defend NBA stars -- they were almost all scorers at every level before the NBA, or thought they were, and they rested on defense. No, my concern is that I don't think Fredette can be a big-time scorer in the NBA.

Compare him, for example, to Mike Miller. Miller was the No. 5 overall pick in 2000, which was a better pick than it sounds like, because 2000 was an awful draft. I mean, historically awful. I mean, it was so bad that late in the first round, the Clippers chose a power forward who had died in 1978 and the Spurs abstained, just to show how smart they were.

The top 10 picks were Kenyon Martin, Stromile Swift, Darius Miles, Marcus Fizer, Miller, DerMarr Johnson, Chris Mihm, Jamal Crawford, Joel Przybilla and Keyon Dooling. In that group, Miller looks like Magic Johnson.

Nonetheless, Miller is the guy who would scare me away from Fredette. This is why: Miller is a pure shooter, like Fredette. He was a pretty good athlete when he was drafted and is a good guy; there is nothing about Mike Miller that makes you hesitate. But he is five inches taller than Jimmer, and he is still only a secondary player on a contending team.

Can Fredette really turn out better than Miller? I'm skeptical. Maybe he has a better handle and is more driven to be great ... I'll concede on both counts. But I'd take Miller's career over Fredette's.

And that's why we need to get Jimmer to the right team. The highest I have seen him in mock drafts is No. 7 to Sacramento, which would be a disaster on several levels. He would presumably take Tyreke Evans' job at point guard, which would probably tick off Evans; Evans isn't really a point guard, but neither is Fredette. Evans would move to shooting guard. If you think he and temperamental center DeMarcus Cousins would be happy with shot-happy Jimmer as their shooting guard, you're nuts. Plus the team might move, and Fredette would be saddled with two savior labels -- top-10 pick, and likable guy on an unlikable team. No. Please: No.

The two best options for Fredette, by far: Miami and New York. Miami is not realistic. I understand that. The Heat don't even have a first-round pick. But imagine Jimmer on that team. He would get a ton of open threes because opponents would be preoccupied with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. The Heat are a terrific perimeter defensive team that could cover up Jimmer's spotty defense. Wade and James can both be primary ball-handlers, so Fredette wouldn't need to be a real point guard.

Plus, the Heat would suddenly have a guy that everybody wants to succeed. Wouldn't that soften Miami's image a bit? Wouldn't it be just a little harder to root for their team bus to break down?

The Knicks are a real possibility. They pick 17th and are rumored to want to move up. (As a rule, the Knicks are always rumored to move up. The New York media lives on those rumors.) The Knicks make sense because Mike D'Antoni believes defense is something you beat, not something you play, and the hypercompetitive, quick-shooting Fredette would thrive in D'Antoni's seven-seconds-or-less system. Of course, a Knicks team that relies on Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and Jimmer Fredette would lose a lot of 145-125 games, but this is not my concern.

We just need a landing spot for Jimmer -- one that gives him a chance at a Stephen Curry career, or at least a J.J. Redick career, instead of a Trajan Langdon career. I want to believe in Jimmer Fredette. This doesn't mean I do.

 
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