Feb 7, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Sacramento Kings guard Jimmer Fredette (7) against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Target Center. The Timberwolves defeated the Kings 86-84. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE
One thing that drives me a little mad watching the Kings this season is that Jimmer Fredette has surprising trouble getting open when playing off the ball. Given his skill set -- catch-and-shoot is his primary weapon -- it is imperative that he get open as frequently as possible when he doesn't have the ball. Equally surprising, he happens to get open on the bounce better than I'd expected. It's been remarked by a number of folks both on the site (Akis) and on TV (Jerry) that if Fredette can add a legit runner/teardrop to his repertoire, it'd be a real boon to his pick-and-roll and dribble-drive game.
But again: he's going to need to work off the ball to make his mark in the NBA. Despite the fact that the Kings rolled up the Celtics like an old rug on Friday, the difference between Ray Allen's off-ball action and that of Jimmer was striking. Allen is damn near 40, and he still got more separation from his chaser than Jimmer ever does. Of course, Fredette is running the offense more, and as such doesn't have nearly as many opportunities to run ragged. But at the same time, Jimmer's 23. There's no reason not to sprint around like a headless chicken.
Of course, a major difference is that the Celtics run about 14 screens per play for Ray, and the Kings might have one for Jimmer. It is one of Boston's offensive priorities to get Allen, the all-time leading three-point shooter, open. The Kings aren't really focused on springing Jimmer free. So the comparison here is difficult. That's why I want to talk about early-career Kevin Martin.
In Martin's second season, he averaged 10 points a game in 26 minutes. I'm not sure he had a single play run for him. He became the full-time starter the next season, and for the next three years averaged better than 20 points per game. For those first two years, he almost never had plays run for him. (In 2006-07, he was third on the team in shots per game and first in scoring, still one of the more amazing feats I've seen.) Martin would occasionally isolate, and sometimes call for a screen. But he wasn't running off of staggered screens off the ball, or curling, or getting pindowns. He was finding space while Mike Bibby or John Salmons or Ron Artest or Beno Udrih dribbled. (In fairness, Martin did a lot of dribbling when in isolation, too. Actually, he more crouched over with the ball low and to the side and watched the defense set up shot for the inevitable drive.)
Can Jimmer do what Martin did? Can he demand the ball by virtue of getting open religiously? He's a rookie, so there's plenty of time to develop that. And while I can already here the voices of those who will argue that even if Fredette does get open he won't get the ball: re-read that list of players Martin played with. Not exactly a bunch of Steve Nashes there, either.
The larger question isn't of intent or will; Jimmer has proven to be tough, hard-working and striving. It's all about the skills. Martin was quick as the wind and long, which helped him get shots off before closers arrived despite the wonky windup. Fredette has one of the quickest triggers in recent Kings history, so that should make up for the length issue (assuming shooting guards will typically cover him). But does Jimmer have the quickness to emulate guards like Allen or Martin? For me, that's the central concern with Fredette's future as scorer. He's never going to be a high-usage player with the ball in his hands, at least not with Isaiah, Marcus and Tyreke on this club.
We know he can shoot. But can he get shots? It's up to him.
(You'll notice I'm comparing Fredette to shooting guards, not point guards. There's a reason for that. A reason flashing in neon lights.)