Could Jimmer Fredette Be the Next JJ Redick, or some other white player?

by npiller88

After (formerly #6) San Diego State got Jimmer’d this past Wednesday to the tune of 43 points, the game has begun in the minds of pundits to project college Player of the Year candidate Jimmer Fredette as an NBA prospect.

NBA players reacted to Fredette’s nationally televised smackdown of SDSU by revving the engine of the hype machine for the nation’s next great white hope. Last year’s NBA leading scorer, the freakishly long and athletic Kevin Durant (who possesses athletic advantages Fredette will never sniff), called him “the best scorer in the world!!” on twitter (his exclamation points, not mine). I’m not sure if Fredette, who is older than John Wall, was really in search of “respect” from his junior, another freakishly athletic NBA rookie talent, but that’s what he got when Wall proclaimed on twitter: “Jimmer Fredette is cold! Respect.”

Fredette leads the NCAA in scoring, at 27.4 points per game. His .421 three point shooting percentage isn’t at the top of Division I, but given the staggering number of threes he’s taken, that percentage is pretty damned impressive. His 4.2 assists per game are respectable, especially for an off guard. And with such high usage, the 1.44 assist to turnover ratio ain’t too shabby either. It’s also the worst of his college career, which speaks again to role Fredette has played as ball-controlling leader on this Mountain West leading BYU squad.

Many of his stat lines have been astonishing this year. In four of the last six games, he’s had at least 39 points, and 47 in one of them against Utah while playing only 35 minutes, the fewest of the six game stretch. Fredette has made the third most threes in the NCAA. It’s worth noting that there are better three-point shooters out there. For instance, Ashton Gibbs of Pitt, nearly the same height and weight as Fredette, is hitting on 45% of his threes, while having made only four less than Jimmer. But Gibbs lacks the versatility of Fredette as a scorer. Fredette, who doesn’t have elite leaping ability or quickness, finds a way to score inside, absorb contact and finish around the rim. The college game is filled with players who take advantage of the NCAA’s short three point shot, and linger on the perimeter, playing the role of sharpshooter. There are players who have lived out there and had very successful careers, even landing NBA gigs as a result (see Anthony Morrow of the Nets). But Fredette is not that guy. Among the top 35 leaders in three pointers made in Division I college basketball, Fredette is the leader in two point field goals. Only one other player, Andrew Goudelock of mid major College of Charleston is close. Make no mistake about it, Fredette knows how to score, and in a variety of ways.

So, the question is, will he score at anywhere near that rate at the NBA level?

History says no. But is there a little racial bias here? The early NBA comparisons Fredette has garnered have been to other good white shooters like JJ Redick. No doubt, there are clear similarities between Redick and Fredette–strong fundamentals and knock-down shooting ability. But the knock on Fredette, and guys like Redick before him, is that he is “not athletic enough.” And maybe that’s true. But what is athleticism? If it is solely defined by leaping ability and raw speed, then Fredette is probably in the bottom third of NBA guards. But if you want to include body control, concentration, and strength, Fredette is at least competitive with most young point guards in the NBA. His skill level is elite, and we can thank that father of his, as seen in many a youtube video, passing the ball to Fredette for a few of his twenty thousand shots during the day’s workout.

The projections for Fredette also seem to forget the long list of black players whose athleticism has disappointed at the NBA level thus far (OJ Mayo or Evan Turner, anyone?), and the white players who have exceeded expectations athletically (Chris Andersen, Kevin Love). A search in google for the “worst athletes in the NBA” brings up multiple lists of the “worst white players of the last 15 years” and other such tantalizing nuggets. There’s nothing wrong with the tacit understanding that there exist far more elite black athletes in the NBA than white ones. But whenever a strong white player like Fredette comes along, there are only comparisons to other white players, and often white shooting specialists at that, rather than complete offensive players (which is what Fredette is). Fredette’s game doesn’t actually resemble Redick’s as much as people think. He’s more creative finishing around the basket than Redick ever was, and has far superior body control, at least at the college level.

The only fair comparison I’ve seen thus far has been to Warriors’ guard Steph Curry (a player exceeding the expectations of many, despite athletic limitations), who has a similar inside and out game. So let’s hold it on the projections at this stage. See how the season finishes. See what the Scouts say as the draft nears. But don’t assume that Fredette’s NBA ceiling is Redick.

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