Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Face Off Part II: Which team the best fit for Jimmer Fredette?

(The following is the second in a series of questions concerning the professional career of Jimmer Fredette. For the first installment, "By his third season, will Jimmer Fredette start 15 games, click here.)

Which team is the best fit for Jimmer Fredette?

Alex Ventre: The Miami Heat

It was the Miami Heat’s second game of the season when the reigning Eastern Conference champions defeated the Boston Celtics in a 115-107 thriller on TNT. However, the hero of the game wasn’t LeBron James or Dwyane Wade. Rather, it was undrafted rookie Norris Cole. The 6-foot-2 rookie scorched the Celtics for 14 fourth-quarter points and made all the crucial buckets down the stretch for Miami.
Heading into the game, I don’t think Doc Rivers was diagramming defensive schemes to slow down Norris Cole. I don’t even think he knew who Norris Cole was.

Instead, I’m pretty sure Rivers was strategizing how to contain James, Wade and, to a lesser extent, Chris Bosh. If someone told Rivers before the game that Norris Cole was going to be taking all the big shots late in the fourth quarter, I think he would have hugged them.

All of the defensive pressure the Celtics were putting on Wade and James allowed for easy scoring opportunities for Cole. Here’s a look at Cole’s final three minutes of that game:

3:00 — Norris Cole makes 19-foot jumper (Dwyane Wade assists)

1:31 — Norris Cole makes 21-foot jumper (LeBron James assists)

0:59 — Norris Cole makes 20-foot jumper (LeBron James assists)

0:09 — Norris Cole makes 2-of-2 free throws

Besides for a pair of free throws, all of Cole’s offense down the wire was catch and shoot opportunities created by James and Wade.

So what does Norris Cole have to with a Jimmer Fredette column? Well right now, Cole is playing the role Fredette was born to play. On Tuesday, ESPN NBA analyst Chad Ford answered a question about Jeremy Lin’s sudden rise to stardom and he wrote, “What team a player lands on and who his coach is may be the biggest factor in their success.”

And right now, Fredette is in a terrible situation in Sacramento, playing behind a glut of shoot-first guards, while already on his second NBA coach. Cole, on the other hand, ended up in a near-perfect situation. If you reversed their fortunes, I’m sure Cole would be the one receiving DNP-CDs and Fredette would be looking great as a shooting specialist that spaces the floor for Wade, James and Bosh. It just shows how important the situation is for a player’s development.

Look at Kwame Brown. While he never would have lived up to being the first pick in the 2001 NBA Draft, who’s to say he wouldn’t have turned into a starting-caliber big man on a team other than the Michael Jordan-led Wizards. What about Darko Milicic, the No. 2 pick in the 2003 draft? He was touted as the next great big man, but he played on a championship contending team behind the likes of Ben and Rasheed Wallace and coach Larry Brown always had a short leash on Milicic and never allowed him to play through his mistakes.

Even two-time MVP Steve Nash was stuck on the bench as a third-string point guard behind Jason Kidd and Kevin Johnson his first two season in Phoenix. It wasn’t until he was traded to Dallas that Nash started to display his true potential.

So if Fredette could be magically be traded to any team in the league, I would pick Miami. As I previously wrote, Fredette knocks down 53.1 percent of spot-up 3-pointers, which would spread the floor for Wade and James to drive, and if the defense collapses, kick to shooters.

Furthermore, thus far this season, Fredette has struggled setting up his teammates, averaging just 4.6 assists per 48 minutes. In Miami, Fredette wouldn’t be asked to handle the ball much or create for others because they have two future Hall of Famers who are already pretty good at it.

Additionally, the Heat are one of the best defensive teams in the league. Veterans such as James, Wade, Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony would help mask Fredette’s defensive deficiencies and allow the Glens Falls native to guard the other team’s weakest link.

Lastly, I’ve never been in Sacramento’s locker room, but I can’t imagine there’s one role model or player who is teaching Fredette the tricks of the trade. In Miami, Erik Spoelstra is an established coach and a slew of veterans from James and Wade to Mike Miller and Shane Battier could help guide Fredette though the nuances of the game.
Although I don’t believe Fredette would ever start over incumbent point guard Mario Chalmers, at least he would the opportunity to properly develop on a championship contending team rather than bask in mediocrity in Sacramento.

Here’s to hoping.

Matthew Donato: The Minnesota Timberwolves 

I consulted former Saratogian clerk and basketball guru Michael Kelly for his thoughts on this question. He felt that Jimmer Fredette would both grown and fit the best in Minnesota, and I am inclined to agree.

The Timberwolves are young, talented and still need to grow a bit together, much like Fredette’s current team in Sacramento, but the difference is that Minnesota has structure and roles while the Kings’ roster looks like it is winging it.

Minnesota is a who’s who of recent draft lotteries and boasts enough young potential franchise cornerstones that they look like the Thunder from a few years back. Kevin Love is one of the best players in the NBA and Ricky Rubio has turned the team into a must-watch on the League Pass.

They are well-coached by Rick Adelman and have the young ingredients: Michael Beasley; Derrick Williams; Wesley Johnson; Nikola Pekovic; Wesley Johnson; Anthony Randolf; Wayne Ellington and Martell Webster (Pekovic is the oldest at 26) to just put the lid on this team and let it simmer until it is ready to dominate the league in a few years.

There isn’t much Minnesota needs going forward except an upgrade of their high-energy combo guard. Fredette makes sense here because his skills do not overlap those of Rubio and Love, and he can play the position where the Timberwolves are the weakest.

Today, Minnesota plays Luke Ridnour along with Rubio in the backcourt and brings in J.J. Barea off the bench when the team needs a spark. Fredette would be an upgrade over either player, neither of which is part of the young core the Timberwolves are building around, and would be a valuable third option.

I mentioned in our debate yesterday, Fredette has had trouble getting open on ball screens, but with Rubio’s eye for the perfect pass and opposing teams focused on Love, getting open would not approach the same degree of difficulty Fredette experiences now. He would see plenty of spot-up jump shots and have more space to drive and let his teammates do the rest.
Minnesota has the pieces to make such a move, including future late-round picks when the team finally blossoms. Wesley Johnson and a first rounder in 2014 would fill the need Sacramento has at small forward while giving the Kings a little something extra for trading away such a marketable player in Fredette. Meanwhile, the Timberwolves upgrade at guard without giving up a starter while also upping the ante as the most likable team in the NBA

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