Is Jimmer Fredette ready to fix the Knicks’ guard woes?
Plain and simple, Fredette was selected 10th overall in the 2011 NBA Draft and has done very little to convince NBA executives that he can be a valuable player since that day.
With that said, Fredette’s playing some of the best basketball of his life with the New York Knicks’ D-League affiliate Westchester Knicks, and the big club certainly has some issues that coincide with Fredette’s strengths.
First I want to start this column out by saying I don’t personally know a bigger Jimmer fan than myself. I used to work in a large sports media company’s stats department, so from 2008 through 2010 I became very familiar with the former BYU scoring machine, and was hoping like heck that the Knicks would somehow be able to draft him.
Fast-forward four years and Fredette’s back in his home state, the 26-year old combo guard grew up in Glens Falls, about 200 miles north of the city, and he’s inarguably been the D-League affiliate’s best offensive player this season. Leading the team in scoring (23 points per game, which is also fourth best in the D-League) and offensive rating (108.7, per NBA.com), the 6-foot-2 combo guard is shooting an unreal 45.8 percent from three, but has been able to find success thanks to his ability to penetrate defenses and make shots around the basket.
ESPN New York’s Knicks beat writer Ian Begley wrote last week on how members of the Knicks’ front office are interested in adding backcourt help to the roster, so the big question is: Do Fredette’s strengths align with the Knicks weaknesses?
Clearly Fredette’s biggest strength is his three-point shooting. Through his four years in the NBA, he’s posted a 38 percent clip from behind the arc, shooting above 40 percent in two of his four campaigns. With shooting being more of a rhythmic skill, it’s impressive that Fredette has been able to post that kind of efficiency despite averaging just 13.5 minutes per game over his career.
The Knicks currently rank 23rd in three point field goal percentage, with Langston Galloway (41.4 percent) and Jose Calderon (36.4) being the only two backcourt players to shoot above average from distance. Fredette would give the team an immediate boost in that respect, and never forget, the guy has Steph Curry range.
Someone’s going to take me to the woodshed for mentioning Curry in a Jimmer Fredette column, but we’re discussing strengths here and the Westchester Knicks guard has been a menace from the perimeter all season. In his column last week, Begley noted at the time that the Knicks were dead last in the NBA in both fast-break points and points off of drives. And while some of that is due to the nature of running a triangle offense, it’s clear that Calderon, Arron Afflalo, and Sasha Vujacic do not thrive in running an uptempo offense. I’m not certain that Fredette necessarily would, but it’s worth noting that the Westchester Knicks currently rank fourth in the D-League in fast break points, per NBA.com.
While stats in the D-League and the NBA really cannot be compared and contrasted as parallels, I don’t think it’s harmful to consider what a player who’s contributing at a high level in the D-League is capable of doing as a team’s fourth guard. It’s hard to imagine coach Derek Fisher deciding to move forward with rookie sensation Kristaps Porzingis as his starting center over Robin Lopez, so that pretty much locks in a lineup of Lopez, Porzingis, Carmelo Anthony, Calderon and Afflalo, with Galloway as the first option off of the bench.
Unless the team trades Calderon, it seems like they’re essentially just looking for someone who can help contribute offensively off of the bench. Begley’s article mentioned guys like Jamal Crawford, Kevin Martin, and Brandon Jennings as players the Knicks could be interested in, so maybe it’s not worth paying to acquire one of them and seeing if this is a role that Fredette’s capable of excelling in. It’s not like any of those players are defensive upgrades over what the Knicks currently have, so I don’t see the point in writing Fredette off because of his shortcomings on that end.
Today’s Fastbreak writer Joseph Nardone wrote off Fredette before the season tipped off, and he did it rightfully so. Listen, players don’t find themselves on four teams in four seasons without reason, and aside from rumors that Fredette’s been hard-headed because he feels he deserves more opportunity than he’s been given, it’s not like he’s swapping teams because leadership can’t stand his personality or behavior. With that said, Fredette hasn’t had much stability to this point of his career and maybe playing closer to home for a team that could really use a scoring spark off the bench could be that opportunity for him to show he belongs in this league.
With rookie Jerian Grant’s playing time consistently in limbo, it doesn’t appear that Knicks’ brass feel like they have an answer for this problem on their roster. In my opinion, this is a shame, as Grant’s one of the best players on the team at getting to the rim and he has the potential to be the franchise point guard of the future. However, it certainly doesn’t help Grant’s playing status that he’s shooting 37.5 percent from the field and 17.2 percent from three, with the highest turnover percentage of all guards on the roster, according to NBA.com.
All I know is Knicks fans will collectively lose their mind if Fisher continues to trot Vujacic out as the solution to this growing concern.