March 30, 2012; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Sacramento Kings point guard Jimmer Fredette (7) watches from the bench during the first half against the Utah Jazz at Energy Solutions Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE
This news is a lot like the news that NBC brought back Community for another season: there's a caveat. While NBC brought back Community for just 13 episodes and exiled it to Fridays (where sitcoms go to die), the Sacramento Kings have given Jimmer Fredette the point guard job at Vegas Summer League. As previously reported, Isaiah Thomas will not attend -- he played huge minutes as a rookie and is busy finishing his degree at University of Washington. (What is it with Huskies skipping Summer League? That's a joke. The franchise wanted I.T. to skip Vegas. The franchise did not want Spencer Hawes to skip Vegas years ago.)
So Jimmer Fredette will be a point guard ... for now. The Bee's Matt Kawahara reports some news about who worked with Jimmer on his point guard skills recently.
When coach Keith Smart visited Fredette recently in Colorado, Fredette said, they worked out together for four days, emphasizing "a lot of ball-screen stuff, defensive lateral quickness," and also talked about Fredette's role.
"He just kind of told me what he expected out of me, what he wanted me to do," Fredette said. "He wants me to be a point guard, go out and make plays, be aggressive."
That's great for Summer League and this pre-Vegas mini-camp. But what happens when Thomas is back in October? What happens when Fredette is no longer the best backcourt player and ballhandler on the floor?
Despite their flaws, one could argue that Tyreke Evans and John Salmons were, in addition to Thomas, better than Jimmer at creating offense for the Kings last season. Remember, Fredette and the bench unit struggled until Salmons was demoted and began to take on more ball-handling duties with the second unit. (Salmons averaged 3.1 assists per 36 minutes off the bench, and 2.5 as a starter. Fredette, the backup point guard all season, was at 3.4 per 36 in 61 games, primarily off the bench.)
The Kings haven't added a shooter. There's certainly still time and, in theory, resources to address Sacramento's standing as the No. 29 three-point shooting team in the league. But until it is, the Kings need Fredette's range more than his point guard ability. Given Marcus Thornton's efficiency decline, the inability of any of the team's small forwards to hit a jumper, Tyreke's shooting trouble and the need for Isaiah to run the team, Jimmer's shooting is going to desperately be needed.
So when he comes into the game, how much of a point guard opportunity is really going to get? He'll likely be playing with another ball-handler or two (Tyreke, Salmons), the Kings will be looking for him to help stretch the floor and, if last season was any indication, Keith Smart will be champing at the bit to get Isaiah back out. It's been well established that it's extremely difficult to play Fredette with Isaiah or any small point guard because NBA two-guards are typically big and either physical or athletic.
This isn't meant to be rain on Jimmer's opportunity -- I hope it all clicks for Fredette in Vegas. But I'm not convinced that being a full-time point guard for two weeks in July is going to mean there's actually an opportunity to continue in the role and fully develop once October, November and December roll around. Two weeks isn't enough to make up for what will surely be short spurts of opportunity once the season arrives. Whether Jimmer is a point guard at heart is irrelevant. It's just hard to make that conversion as a reserve when Fredette's dominant skill -- scoring from outside -- is so desperately needed.
I hope I'm wrong.