Jimmer Fredette was the best scorer in college basketball ... but will that be enough in the NBA?
Jimmer Fredette led the NCAA in scoring as a senior, averaging 28.9 points per game. But scoring doesn't necessarily translate to NBA success.
Plenty of scoring leaders went on to tremendous NBA careers -- Oscar Robertson and Rick Barry, to name a few -- but many never made it to the league.
Currently, there are only a few active players who won a Division I scoring title, including Stephen Curry (2008-09 at Davidson), Reggie Williams (2006-07, 2007-08 at VMI) and Kurt Thomas (1994-95 at TCU). Recent scoring leaders who were highly drafted but did not pan out include Adam Morrison (No. 3 in 2006) and Courtney Alexander (No. 13 in 2000).
When comparing Fredette to his peers of recent seasons, there are two main points to consider: (1) Fredette is a 22-year-old senior and, (2) he measured at 6-foot-2 ½, which makes him either an undersized shooting guard or an unproven point guard at the NBA level.
Jimmer Fredette's BYU Career
Scoring 18.7 points per game for his career does place him toward the top of point guards, but is he a point guard? If he is an off-guard, scoring 18.7 points per game is not as impressive.
Fredette’s deep shooting is a huge strength, and his 39.4 career 3-point percentage at BYU is good, regardless of whether he is classified as a point guard or shooting guard. It is the rest of his game that raises questions. He had a career pure point rating (PPR) of minus-0.2 -- hardly indicative of a point guard. His defensive and rebounding numbers were both quite poor. And taking more than 24 minutes to get a steal and more than 11 minutes to get a rebound aren't indicative of someone who can help if he's not making shots.
Here's a look at the top 10 players who had similar statistical careers in college to Fredette based on advanced metrics:
On the surface, it's easy to find differences with many of these players, but the point of looking for similar players is to get a class of them to judge the odds of success. On this list, there is one all-time great in Nash, and there are a few players who were starters or regulars for years in the league. But there are also some underachievers, including Childress and Reeves, who were drafted in the mid-first round, where Fredette is being projected by many.
Of these, Nash is the most intriguing because he turned into one of the best players in the NBA after leading his unsung Santa Clara team to surprising success. Nash had to score a lot in college, but he later transformed into one of the greatest playmakers in NBA history. Will Fredette do the same?
It's always dangerous to bet that anyone will do something as special as Nash. Whereas Nash became a better point guard as he progressed through college, Fredette became a bigger scorer. By the time Nash was a senior, he was getting an assist every 5.6 minutes. Fredette got an assist every 8.3 minutes as a senior and never was better than one every 6.7 minutes throughout his college career.
Fredette has been compared to Curry because both shoot from deep and neither was a clear point guard entering the NBA draft. Curry shot a little better from behind the 3-point arc, 41.2 percent to 39.4, and shot it more often. Curry was also a better overall shooter, with a 58 effective field goal percentage in college while Fredette was at 54 percent.
But Curry, facing questions about his transition to the NBA, worked on being a point guard in his junior year and improved his PPR (pure point rating) from minus-2.0 to 0.0. Fredette's PPR actually dropped his senior year, from 1.1 to minus-1.8.
And as a freshman, Curry was dominant, scoring 21.5 points per game, while shooting 40.8 percent on 3-pointers on a team that went 29-5. Fredette played 18.5 minutes per game and scored 7.0 points per game (fifth on BYU) on a 27-8 team. Curry burst onto the national scene as a 19-year-old freshman. A lot of scouts didn't pay much attention to Fredette until he was a 21-year-old junior. This leaves little reason to believe Fredette can be as good as Curry in the NBA.
Dan Dickau (Gonzaga), another mid-major combo guard who scored more than 20 points per game as a senior, may represent the low expectation for Fredette. Dickau, who debuted in the NBA at age 23 after sitting out a transfer season, didn't play as much early in his college career as Fredette, but he also shot better and didn't shoot as often as the BYU star.
Fredette played 1,323 minutes in his senior season and took 765 field goal attempts. That’s a shot every 1.7 minutes! Fredette was a scorer in college, a great scorer, but his pure point rating is indicative of his desire to shoot before he passes. His rebounding numbers aren’t special and his defense is poor.
Superficially, Fredette’s scoring volume has inflated his value to the point where he may be a lottery pick. His ceiling is lower than others because of his age, and his ability to develop into a passer is in question. When evaluating the entire package, Fredette projects better to the NBA as a late first-round or early second-round pick, given his one specialty skill. That way, he can begin to carve out a career as a designated shooter, with a chance to improve his overall game.