In case you haven’t been keeping up with the Chinese Basketball Association, Jimmer Fredette had an incredible week. In consecutive wins, Fredette nearly recorded two triple-doubles. He dropped 50 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists last Wednesday and then posted a triple-double on Friday with 54 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.
And I know, the CBA doesn’t count. Fredette can’t play defense. An NBA wash-out who can’t do anything but shoot. I know.
Going to UConn and being a Jimmer Fredette fan feels like living in New York City and rooting for Tom Brady. Many Huskies fans still have a grudge against Fredette for beating out UConn legend Kemba Walker for the Naismith College Player of the Year award in 2010-11, often pointing out Kemba’s far-superior NBA career.
First of all, as a big fan of both players, I say Fredette undoubtedly deserved the award. UConn and BYU finished No. 9 and No. 10, respectively, in the final AP Poll. Kemba led his team to a National Championship, while Fredette led his significantly-less-talented team to a Sweet Sixteen overtime loss.
Fredette had virtually no help on his roster and defense only had to stop him to stop BYU. He still managed to score five more points per game than Walker and led his team to a tough Sweet Sixteen loss.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to the source of the majority of hatred against Fredette: his short-lived NBA career.
In his rookie year with the Kings, Fredette struggled, averaging 7.6 points per game in 18.6 minutes per game as a backup point guard. His Player Efficiency Rating–a stat that measures per minute production–was a below-average 10.8 (the average PER is 15).
But in each of the next two years in Sacramento, Fredette improved vastly. After switching positions to shooting guard, his PER jumped to 14.6 in his sophomore season and 15.8 in his third year.
Hidden behind those numbers is the fact that Fredette played for the Kings, who also held back another point guard who was highly-doubted at the beginning of his career: Isaiah Thomas. When Thomas left Sacramento (and after a brief stint in Phoenix), he became a superstar as a Celtic. Thomas’ PER was around 17 for his first two seasons in Sacramento, but skyrocketed to 26.5 last year in Boston after a few years in the low 20s.
However, when Fredette was waived by Sacramento, his next full season was with the Pelicans and for some reason, New Orleans played Fredette as a point guard despite evidence from earlier in his NBA career that he’s better suited to be a shooting guard. He struggled in that season with the Pelicans, and played just six games in the league after that.
When no NBA teams signed him for the 2015 season, Fredette dominated the D-League, earning All-Star Game MVP after setting a scoring record. A week later, in his last NBA action, Fredette was signed to a 10-day contract with the Knicks. In that stint, Jimmer averaged 50.4 points per 36 minutes and had an off-the-charts 47.4 PER.
When the Knicks contract ended, Fredette’s NBA options were exhausted and he chose to go overseas and play in China for the 2016 season. All he did in the CBA was win MVP in his first season while averaging 37.6 points per game and earning a nickname that translates to “The Lonely God.” So far this year, Jimmer has scored 40.3 points per game.
Fredette isn’t the best defender. I realize this and I know that most of his lack of minutes can be attributed to his unreliability on the defensive end of the floor. However, he can certainly be a contributing piece off the bench to provide scoring for a team lacking guard depth.
Full disclosure: I’ve been a huge fan of Fredette since he graduated my crosstown-rival high school to go to BYU, so I’m a little biased. I intentionally waited until the end of this column to say that. Fredette and I grew up in neighboring small towns in upstate New York, Glens Falls and South Glens Falls, respectively.
I watched Fredette get buckets and dominate at the high school level and I was amazed when “Jimmer-mania” struck the nation during his college days. Even though we technically went to rival high schools and he’s seven years older than me, I felt a weird sense of pride that somebody from (essentially) my town could make it so big.
I genuinely believe that Fredette can be a contributing scorer off the bench for a contending NBA team. While that type of player would still be considered a bust for a No. 10 overall draft pick, there have been much worst draft picks that haven’t gotten nearly as much hate Fredette has.
Fredette isn’t washed-up, he’s a role-player who just hasn’t found his role. So focus your hatred on Anthony Bennett or Adam Morrison instead and let me keep screaming “Jimmer!” on 3-pointers.
Josh Buser is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.