Even now, nine months after the fact and in view of everything that has transpired since then, the Boston Celtics, NBA sources say, have absolutely no regrets that they took a pass on BYU scoring sensation Jimmer Fredette in 2010.
They could have had him last spring. So, too, could have the New York Knicks,
New Jersey Nets or Oklahoma City Thunder. But all four teams looked at Fredette, worked him out and came away not believing he was worth a first-round guarantee.
So Fredette returned for his senior season in Provo, Utah, and is putting up mind-boggling numbers for the No. 7 Cougars. He is widely considered to be one of three candidates for national player of the year, along with Nolan Smith of Duke and Jared Sullinger of Ohio State.
Conversations with NBA executives and league officials now point to the inescapable conclusion that Fredette will almost assuredly be a first-round pick this June. A couple of mock drafts (which most NBA personnel guys, well, mock) have him going in the top 15.
Had any of those teams given Fredette a "yes" on the first-round question in May, the widely held view is that he would have declared for the draft. One NBA source even suggested Fredette might have accepted a Nets offer for the No. 1 pick of the second round. But nothing was forthcoming.
Here is what Fredette told the Deseret News in May when he decided to return to school (the NCAA deadline for declaring for the 2010 draft was May 11, a new deadline that had gone into effect the previous August. The NBA's was June 14):
"It was a little too uncertain. I felt like if I was going to be a second-round pick and having to fight for a spot on a team that it would be better for me to come back and have a great senior year and have a great time here at BYU, and hopefully improve my stock, and next year try to be in that first-round category."
So, to ask the question, what were the Celtics (and Knicks, Nets and Thunder) thinking in May? Did they all miss on a bona-fide pro? Or is Fredette simply a prolific college scorer whose game doesn't necessarily translate to the NBA?
While the Celtics were starting their terrific playoff run, Fredette and a few others (whose identities could not be determined) came to Waltham, Mass., for a workout. It should be pointed out that the NBA prohibits teams from talking about draftees, even seniors such as Fredette, until their seasons are over. So the sentiments and opinions in this story come from interviews in which the individuals were granted anonymity.
In early May, when Fredette worked out for Boston, the Celtics had no idea they were going to make the playoff run that they eventually did. There was some uncertainty as to which direction the franchise was heading. At that point of the year, the NBA hadn't even had its lottery, so it was very early in the process. Had the Celtics guaranteed their first-round selection, the 19th overall, to Fredette, they would have shut themselves out from, say, Avery Bradley.
After watching Bradley this season, you might ask, so what? Who would you rather have? Wouldn't the ever-crafty Red Auerbach have swooped in on Fredette? Bradley, after all, already has done a stint in the D-League, and recent Celtics rookies who have had that experience have tended to be borderline players at best.
Fredette, meanwhile, has an ability to score in bunches. He has NBA range, unquestionably. But even with all Fredette has done this season -- and he could well break Danny Ainge's BYU career scoring record -- the Celtics are still comfortable with their decision.
How so? There's the issue of Fredette's height and position. He is generously listed as 6-foot-2. He would have to play point guard in the NBA, meaning he would have to go up against (read: defend) the likes of Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Tony Parker and Rajon Rondo. His defense (or lack thereof) isn't his only flaw. His lack of athleticism in workouts stood out.
While no one NBA player comes to mind in comparison to Fredette, the name J.J. Redick is most often seen. But, as one league executive pointed out, Redick, while no candidate for the All-Defensive team, is nonetheless 6-4 and had played against much tougher competition in college. He was the 11th pick in 2006 and it has taken him a while to find his niche.
Another name that comes to mind is Adam Morrison, the No. 3 overall pick out of Gonzaga in 2006. He dominated college basketball at a smaller school but flamed out in the NBA (although he did make the All-Rookie team in 2006-07). Morrison is 6-8, but he couldn't guard anyone either.
So the Celtics took a pass on Jimmer and may never get a second chance. But what about the Knicks? It would seem Mike D'Antoni's system would be great for someone like Fredette. New York, however, couldn't give a first-round guarantee because it didn't have a first-round pick at the time, having dealt it away in 2004.
The Knicks used their first choice -- No. 38 -- to select Syracuse's Andy Rautins. They took rookie surprise Landry Fields of Stanford at No. 39 with a pick they had acquired via trade in 2008. We'd have to think that the ever-shrewd Donnie Walsh would have come up with a first-round pick if he really wanted to get Fredette. Teams with late first-rounders are always looking to deal.
The Nets are a bit more puzzling. New Jersey had the third overall pick as well as the 27th selection, which would have seemed to be a perfect spot to take a flyer on someone like Fredette. How many picks in the late 20s actually do anything?
The Nets also had the aforementioned first pick in the second round. But Jersey passed, although it made a deal with Atlanta for the 24th overall pick, using it for Texas' Damion James. He has appeared in 17 games for New Jersey this season.
Oklahoma City went into the draft with two late first-round picks, Nos. 21 and 26, which it packaged to New Orleans for Cole Aldrich of Kansas, who went 11th overall. Aldrich has played 55 minutes this season and done a couple of stints in the D-League. New Orleans received Craig Brackins and Quincy Pondexter in the deal. Pondexter is averaging a shade fewer than 11 minutes for the Hornets. Brackins, who went 21st, was subsequently dealt to Philadelphia and has appeared in two games for the Sixers. Like Aldrich, he has done two stints in the D-League.
The draft surely is an inexact science and is wildly unpredictable. Where would the Celtics be now had Ainge gotten his wish in 2004 and landed Robert Swift instead of Al Jefferson? Would Swift have developed sufficiently to land Kevin Garnett?
Woulda, coulda, shoulda. That was the name of a Patti LuPone touring show in which the celebrated chanteuse did songs that, for one reason or another, she had never been able to perform.
Some NBA team is going to get Fredette this June. Four teams had a chance to get him last June, but none of them bit. And it's not like any of those four teams took the next Kevin Durant with a pick that could have been used to take Jimmer.
So how soon before any of them will be saying woulda, coulda, shoulda? Or did they get it right all along?
Longtime Celtics reporter Peter May is a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com.