Sacramento Kings fans haven’t had much to cheer about this year. Not only are the Kings one of the worst teams in the league, their many tantalizing prospects are still failing to materialize. DeMarcus Cousins has all the skill in the world, but his immaturity continues to be a problem, as he was benched midway through last night’s loss to the Clippers. Tyreke Evans has seen his stats go down every year since winning rookie of the year, and he may come up in trade talks soon. Finally, highly touted rookie Thomas Robinson has been decidedly underwhelming, averaging only 4.5 points and 4.0 rebounds a game, while struggling mightily on offense.
What’s the one thing Kings fans can cheer about? Jimmer Fredette is looking a lot better in his second year.
As a rookie, Fredette was one of the bigger disappointments in the league. He struggled shooting the ball, and it looked like his college game had no chance of translating to the pros, just as many experts had predicted. It seemed like his ability to thrive against weak college competition had severely inflated his value, and we were left with another lottery bust who quickly falls out of the league.
That no longer looks to be the case. Fredette has shot the ball much better in his second year, putting up .459 from the field, and .408 from three. Quite simply, he’s looked like the player the Kings thought he could be; a high volume scorer who can provide instant offense off the bench, and who isn’t afraid to shoot the ball from any range. He appears to have put his rookie struggles behind him, and has become one of the more accurate guards in the game.
Fredette’s situation is a bit reminiscent of J.J. Redick. Redick was also a high-volume scorer in college who floundered when entering the NBA. In his first few seasons with the Magic, he was one of their worst players, and when they made their title run in 2009, commentators laughed at how ironic it was that he and Adam Morrison were both in the finals, despite their disappointing careers. As time went on, however, Redick improved, and is now of the most important players Orlando has. The difference between Redick and Fredette, however, is that Fredette won’t need nearly as much time. Redick didn’t truly pick his game up until his fourth season in the league, while Fredette is making major improvements in only his second year.
There’s just one problem; he hasn’t been getting enough playing time. The Kings have a huge log jam at the guard position. Aaron Brooks, Isaiah Thomas, Tyreke Evans, John Salmons, and Francisco Garcia are all competing with Fredette for minutes. What that leads to is a lot of shuffling in the rotation, which never makes anyone happy. I would not be surprised if the Kings made some moves at the trade deadline, if only to clear out the over-abundance of guards on their roster.
In the meantime, Keith Smart needs to find a way to get Jimmer some more minutes. Earlier this week, he put up 22 against the Suns, 15 against the Warriors, and 16 against the Clippers. All of these totals came in games when Fredette was given significant playing time. If he gets a chance to contribute, he will put up impressive numbers.
Perhaps Smart has figured this out, and we’ll see Fredette on a regular basis the rest of the way. Still, the Kings lineup is so convoluted that it’s hard to know for sure. So, on the off-chance that Keith Smart reads this site (hey, you never know), I’ll make my plea right here: Please, keep giving Jimmer major minutes. He’s earned them; he’s a good player, and on a team that is such a mess, you need players who can put up points on a nightly basis. Jimmer might have an off-night once in awhile, but that’s no reason to take him out of the rotation, or to give his minutes to aging underachiever like Salmons. After a rough start, Jimmer Fredette appears to be the great shooter we all hoped he could be. Now, he just needs a coach to stand by him. Hopefully, Keith Smart will be up to the task.
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