As the NBA enters its hibernation period of Aug and Sept, let’s turn to our fearless, cappuccino-fueled ring leader to see what’s in store to ruffle the Behemoth feathers of the West once the new season awakes.
Evidence that the rebound-and-run identity Coach Keith Smart vowed to instill upon being named interim coach earlier this year continues to mount.
Initially, the offense of the prior regime was scraped. The playbook of the Grim Reaper of Coaching was burnt to ashes, much to the chagrin of the one player it benefitted.
Once bestowed with non-interim status and a two-year deal, Coach Keith Smart formulated a plan. Ball sharing was stressed over isolation play. Early offense was encouraged. Preference for the pass over the dribble was ballyhooed. The instant outlet pass was applauded.
Get it and go.
The increased scoring output reflected the implementation of an actual philosophy, coinciding with an improved rebound-and-run focus to best exploit the talent base, however disadvantaged it proved over course of a 22-44 loss parade.
Kings Pace of Play: #1 in NBA (97.4 possessions/game)
Kings Fast Break Points: #2 in NBA (18.6 PPG)
Kings Defensive Rebounds: #29th in NBA (70.5% team defensive rebound rate, 2nd worst in league)
One player cannot do it alone. The Kings did not clean their defensive glass well, excluding a supreme job by DeMarcus (6th best in league in defensive rebound rate at 25.9%), and allowed too many second and third shots. This need was addressed with the 5th pick in the draft, securing our future starting PF and Cousin’s new scowl mate.
Additionally, Isaiah Thomas was named the PG starter to push tempo and inspire unselfish play.
The sporadic team production with Tyreke at the helm, the aforementioned one player, was acknowledged, and a new leader was appointed. IT thrived in his place, with a flair and a smile, a fifth gear, and without perceptible weakness.
Since then, the off-season changes include adding the best defensive rebounder in the NCAA (get it), and one of the most slithery ball pushers in the NBA (go).
The team that showed consistent glimpses of rebounding and running, of getting and going, have enhanced their ability to do so, with the addition of former league MIP Aaron Brooks, and former Jayhawk board fiend Thomas Robinson (#1 in NCAA with 9.0 defensive RPG; #1 in defensive rebound rate at 30.6%).
Control the glass (Cousins and T-Rob), force tempo, and get easy baskets. Easy baskets allows a defense to set. A set defensive is more prepared to achieve a stop. An achieved stop results in ball possession. Ball possession leads to an outlet pass to a speedster (AB and IT) or a run-away freight train (Tyreke).
Get it and go.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
This cycle of play can repeat itself, by design, within a quarter, within a game and over a full season, culminating optimally with a playoff birth in 2013.
Sounds like a plan.
Sounds like the Smart Plan.
This begs the question, where does Jimmer fit?
Or does he fit at all?
One of my favorite stats to evaluate a scorer is PPS (points per shot, calculated as total points scored over FGAs). It is simple yet revealing. It is a less formulaic version of TS% (true shooting percentage), inherently quantifying the sum total of an ability to score from anywhere, to earn freebies, and to use the long ball to selective advantage.
PPS tells us if a scorer is justified in their frequency of launching, or not, and to what degree.
Perhaps it will be illuminating, therefore, not to consider the Kings backcourt players as a collection of PGs, NaPGs, SGs or combos, but temporarily as a group of scorers. Jimmer, Isaiah, Aaron, Marcus and Tyreke all possess a scorer’s mentality, after all, and their effectiveness depends highly on their ability to put the ball in the hoop to activate other aspects of their respective games, especially passing and defensive intensity.
Within an ominously crowded backcourt, Jimmer faces the greatest challenge of his playing career. Can he succeed, rebound from an underwhelming rookie campaign, silence his doubters, and contribute to a franchise revival? Or is he destined to fizzle and fade away (trade away) like the potential for a Ryan Anderson signing?
Jimmer lacks the trap-splitting agility and space-creating maneuverability of Brooks and Isaiah. He lacks the brute force and one-on-one breakdown potency of Tyreke Evans. He defers to Marcus Thornton in regards to an array of scoring weaponry, lacking Thornton’s power game and propensity for late game heroics. Defensively, Jimmer holds an edge over just Brooks, and as a passer ahead of only MT.
But Jimmer scored 29 PPG in his final year at BYU.
He won the Naismith POY award.
Steve Nash wasn’t league MVP after his rookie season, either.
Let’s give this guy a deserving break.
Let’s give this guy a chance to flourish.
It’s the Mormon, Christian and Blobonian thing to do.
2011-12 Rank NBA Guards Points Per Shot Blobmentary 1 James Harden, G 1.66 Inflated due to playing with Westbrook and KD, but stats don't lie. Notable Jimmer Fredette (Senior Year @ BYU) 1.4 29 PPG, NCAA Scoring Champ.
2 Steve Nash, PG 1.39 Best Shooter in NBA Notable Aaron Brooks, PG (China League) 1.36 22 PPG, 55% FGs, 41% 3 pointers
3 Rodney Stuckey, PG 1.36 Average shooter draws fouls aplenty. 4 Arron Afflalo, SG 1.35 40% 3P FG% 5 Chris Paul, PG 1.34 Always seeks best shot for himself or teammates per possession. Notable Jimmer Fredette, PG (2012 LVSL) 1.34 Woeful 36% FGs and 22% 3FG%. Encouraging 8 FTAs per game at 88% accuracy to elevate PPS . 6 Gordon Hayward, SG 1.33 Doubled production from rookie year, using athleticism to get to hoop, open spots. 7 Devin Harris, PG 1.32 Modest but steady. 8 Isaiah Thomas, PG 1.31 Superb. 5th Best among PGs, ahead of 2012 ROY. 9 Ty Lawson, PG 1.3 IT, one year into the future. 10 Goran Dragic, PG 1.29 Gets to hoop, hits long ball. 11 Dwyane Wade, SG 1.29 Post game, foul drawer compensates for 3 point struggles. 12 J.J. Redick, SG 1.29 Jimmer can be better than Redick, and that's pretty good. 13 Ramon Sessions, PG 1.28 14 Kyrie Irving, PG 1.26 Destined to rise, a la Dark Knight. 15 Paul George, SG 1.25 16 Jeff Teague, PG 1.24 17 Russell Westbrook, PG 1.23 18 Tony Parker, PG 1.23 19 Derrick Rose, PG 1.23 20 Lou Williams, PG 1.22 Notable Aaron Brooks, PG (MIP Season w/ HOU) 1.21 21 Joe Johnson, SG 1.21 22 Kobe Bryant, SG 1.21 Who?
23 John Wall, PG 1.20 Tyreke of the East.
24 Deron Williams, PG 1.20 25 Jarrett Jack, PG 1.20 26 Marcus Thornton, G 1.19 9th best among SGs. Played best injury-free ball later half of season. NOTABLE AVERAGE GUARD 1.19 PGs (1.2) have slightly higher average PPS than SGs (1.18) 27 Wesley Matthews, G 1.18 28 DeMar DeRozan, SG 1.17 29 Luke Ridnour, PG 1.16 30 Andre Miller, PG 1.16 31 Tyreke Evans, PG 1.15 Improved PPS in later half of year by abandoning long ball. 32 Mike Conley, PG 1.15 33 Klay Thompson, G 1.15 Coulda, shoulda been?
34 Gerald Henderson, G 1.15 35 Jason Terry, SG 1.14 36 Courtney Lee, SG 1.14 37 Marco Belinelli, SG 1.14 38 Jamal Crawford, G 1.14 See Ellis, Monta. 39 Monta Ellis, SG 1.14 See Mayo, OJ. 40 Anthony Morrow, SG 1.14 41 O.J. Mayo, SG 1.13 See Young, Nick. 42 Brandon Jennings, PG 1.12 43 Mo Williams, PG 1.12 44 Jameer Nelson, PG 1.12 45 Nick Young, SG 1.12 See Richardson, Jason. 46 Leandro Barbosa, SG 1.11 47 MarShon Brooks, G 1.11 48 Randy Foye, G 1.11 49 Brandon Knight, PG 1.10 50 Rajon Rondo, PG 1.10 Brick layer beyond 12 feet; saves his best for post-season. 51 Shannon Brown, SG 1.09 52 Jordan Crawford, SG 1.08 53 Raymond Felton, PG 1.07 54 Jason Richardson, SG 1.06 Unconscious ball-hogging chucker. 55 Jrue Holiday, PG 1.05 56 Kemba Walker, PG 1.04 Jimmer has rookie company at Brick Factory. 57 Jimmer Fredette, PG 1.04 Missed too many open shots as rookie. 58 Evan Turner, SG 1.03 2nd Pick in 2010 draft disappointing, save defensive skills.
The one qualifier to the above chart is that Jimmer did not play a ton of minutes (19 MPG), compared to the majority of players who logged 30+ MPG. It’s tough to establish a scoring groove in five to six minute stints of action. Yet Jimmer was afforded enough opportunity to do more than he did. Most recently, he did not dissuade critics with 22% three point shooting (7 for 32) and 36 FG% (24 for 67) in Las Vegas over five games.
Improvement is clearly in order. Otherwise, DNP-CDs will come fast and furious in 2012-13.
To carve out a meaningful role and climb the PT ladder, not to mention lay claim to a sustainable NBA career, Jimmer has to do better than dead last in guard PPS (57th out of 58th). This means drawing more shooting fouls, developing a floater, swishing stop and pops, nailing escape dribble pull-ups, and making a better percentage of wide open threes. A clutch jumper, or two or three, under two minutes would not hurt his cause, either.
A misconception exists that the underachievement of Jimmer can be based upon a lack of confidence, an inability to dribble or defend, or the tendency to playing a subordinate style of game ill-suited to his strengths. These criticisms of Jimmer miss their mark, just like the majority of his shots taken as a first year pro.
The flawed criticism and quick-fix advice, by fans and media, goes something like this:
Jimmer needs to rediscover his confidence. Jimmer has to play the way Jimmer plays. He has to get back to being himself. He has to be more aggressive. He has to remember who he was as an unstoppable collegiate force, and play like this. He has to look for his shot more, and launch with fearless abandon.
Sounds logical, right? Well, maybe. Maybe not. All of that is easier said than done too, of course. Well-meaning platitudes are sometimes offered when the real answer is elusive, however obvious it may be.
Additionally, isn’t a you-do-you plan of attack a license to take shots out of the structure of the offense? Isn’t this strategy a contradiction to a more commonly espoused view from successful coaches, experienced players and astute fans? What of the more accurate sentiment that asserts a player must let the game ‘come to him’, play within the flow of the offense, and not force plays out of the context of the team concept?
There is a time to shoot and a time to pass. There is time to create for yourself and a time to defer to teammates. There is an optimal balance that players aspire to achieve, with perfection rarely attained. Steve Nash and Chris Paul come closest, with Rajon Rondo, Dwayne Wade, Tony Parker and Deron Williams trailing closely.
LeBron James achieved pass versus shot perfection in several games during the NBA playoffs, silencing critics nine years into a Hall of Fame career. One of the most athletic guards the league has ever seen, NBA finalist and current Olympian Russell Westbrook, has received extensive criticism for his decision-making and execution, and he’s a two time All-Star.
The point is this: All players, however talented, face the challenge of improving their floor game, and walking the fine line between selfless teammate and assertive scorer. Those who do so best fall back upon their talent, experience and natural playing instincts, as opposed to a premeditated plan or an overwrought habit.
Like the stars mentioned, Jimmer does not lack for natural scoring and playmaking instincts. (Good news guys, he has them!) His instincts were on display last year as a shot creator (for himself and others) and wiling defender, and this bodes well for his future. What Jimmer lacked was execution, not instincts. His floor game, work ethic, mental approach and learning curve are prevalent too, and can therefore be dismissed as legitimate concerns.
Essentially then, it is not relevant whether you believe Jimmer is a PG, SG, combo or NaPG. It does not matter what position he plays if his PPS continues to hover near 1.0. If his scoring efficiency does not improve, he can play PF and be as equally ineffective.
The reality is Jimmer is a Nag-PG-y. No, this is not the name of a four-winged creature from the planet of Pandora. This stands for Not A Good Point Guard Yet, whether in 3-D, 2-D, League Pass or pirated viewing.
Jimmer displays an ability to maintain his dribble through pressure, to draw and dish to the open man, and to challenge fleet-footed guards with angles, anticipation and strength. Simply because he doesn’t handle all of the responsibilities of a PG well, yet, does not mean he’s a SG. A quarterback who throws more interceptions than TDs is not a field goal kicker. There is a reason the PG position is regarded as the toughest of all NBA positions to play, as many players before and after Jimmer may attest.
What remains to be proven, obviously, is whether the dynamic, in-the-zone scoring aptitude Jimmer exhibited at BYU will manifest as a Sacramento King. There was one road game in Minnesota (L 84-86, 2/7/12) last year in which Jimmer caught fire in the 4th quarter. He made five consecutive shots within 6 minutes, including 3 three pointers, teasing fans and front office instantly gratified by his fellow rookie teammate. Instead of repeating with similar performance over later half of the year, emerging as the dog days of the season set in, exploiting meaningless games to send a message to the league and coaches, Jimmer ended on a whimper and a clang.
Yet improvement as a player is not always linear, steadily gradual or on a premeditated time table. It can as readily occur through accumulation of lessons, a.k.a. adversity and own blocked shots, coinciding with receptive learning and persistent effort.
Then, unexpectedly to outside observers, it clicks. The game slows down. The correct decisions more readily reveal themselves. Opponents strengths are anticipated, their weaknesses exploited. Shots previous errant find their mark. Playing time is earned, not granted. Experience and natural instincts collide, and a successful career is forged.
With this in mind, here are five things Jimmer can continue to do to become the player Geoff Petrie thought he could be when he selected him with the 10th pick in the 2011 draft:
(1) Embrace competition.
The opponents Jimmer will face everyday in practice, the speedsters (IT and AB), the bully (Reke) and the dynamic scorer (MT), are no tougher than those he will face when the games are played for real. His backcourt teammates also represent a good mix of size, strength and skill to ready Jimmer for the likes of Chris Paul, Steve Nash and Stephen Curry.
Jimmer can use his likely 5th guard status as an excuse to sulk and wallow at the end of the bench, to contact his agent and management team, or as an opportunity to enhance his skills and prove he belongs.
Over the course of an 82 game schedule, injuries, scoring lulls, foul trouble and fatigue are inevitable, creating opportunity for players near the end of the bench.
Be ready, be sharp, embrace competition and capitalize, and an entrenched rotational role can be yours.
(2) Sacrifice your body.
At 6’2" and 195 pounds, Jimmer has a wide and sturdy physique, but too often he did not use it to his advantage. There’s no better way to gain favor with a head coach than to display a warrior-like effort through diving to the floor to retrieve loose balls, to step in front of a charging opponent to draw a change of possession foul, and to throw your body into off-balance bigs to earn trips to the charity stripe.
You are not a delicate butterfly, Jimmer, like the lightweight PG underachievers before you (Quincy Douby, pre-injury Bobby Hurley and, gulp, Jason Hart), so stop playing like one. You, yourself, have asserted you want to pattern your game after Deron Williams. This is an awesome role model to emulate, and superstar player to aspire to become.
D-Will does not shy from contact. He looks for it. He initiates it. He welcomes it. Do the same. Sacrifice your body. Make the hardwood your friend. Get up, smile and give your lovely wife post-game, full-body massage obligation duties. As a newlywed, she will gladly comply, so you may meet the floor yet again.
The get-it-and-go team identity Geoff Petrie and Coach Smart are trying to establish is readily apparent to any astute observer. Rebounders (JT, Cousins, T-Rob) and runners (James Johnson, AB, IT, Reke) abound.
Find your role within this framework, Jimmer, and you make yourself a valuable component that Coach Smart will come to rely upon game after game, and win after win.
Stephen Curry has made a name for himself in the NBA by leaking out on first instant that the Dubs gain possession. When clear path to hoop is not available in transition, and teammates are angling into rebounding position (3-on-3 break, 3-on-2 break or 2-on-2 break), Curry stops or fades to open spot and launches his lethal jumper.
How often did we see Jimmer pull and pop in transition, or delayed transition last year?
Not often enough, and this needs to change. Jimmer can improve his PPS significantly by getting out and running, with commitment and focus to fill the outside lane on break, catching and launching with clear skies overhead.
(4) Reduce outside obligations.
This is a minor adjustment that can pay major dividends. Jimmer has been nothing but accommodating, pleasant and expansive with the media and a microphone in his face. But to the extent that he exhausts mental energy put to better use, namely reserved for dedication to your craft, I suggest cutting back on your willingness to pontificate.
Mike Bibby and J-Will had it right. So does Thomas Robinson. They view media interviews as a reluctantly necessary obligation, not a platform to promote themselves or to always reveal their deepest thoughts and feelings. As such, they generally keep responses brief and to the point. I certainly do not advocate being rude or dismissive, but some questions from media members are best acknowledged with a grunt and a half-smile.
Jimmer declined to speak the media following his first game is LVSL, and to this I say ‘bravo’. Further, any obligations that distract, burden or overwhelm should be respectfully declined. You are trying to carve out a career for yourself, Jimmer, not obtain political office. Proceed accordingly.
(5) Uh…um…make shots.
Here’s a novel concept, eh? Jalen Rose, ESPN analyst and former bad-ass NBA pro, who has a podcast through Bill Simmon’s Grantland web site offered commentary that stuck in my cranium recently. He stated without equivocation that the most difficult thing for any NBA player to do is to consistently put the ball in the hoop.
Rose is not Magic Johnson, Larry Bird or Coach K, but I get the sense he knows his s*ht.
Accordingly, Jimmer has to do what Jimmer was drafted to do. With a rookie PPS of 1.04, work remains to be done.
Referring back to the PPS chart, the underperformance of Jimmer as rookie, former NCAA scoring champ, is conspicuous. Compared to his PPS as a senior at BYU, the disparity is dramatic, from 1.4 PPS to 1.04 PPS. In other words, from highly efficient to highly inefficient. From bad-ass to bad.
Whether you think Jimmer will fail or succeed ultimately boils down to whether you feel his performance at BYU as a senior was an illusion, a mirage or something special, whether the shooting and scoring acumen (29 PPG, #1 in NCAA, 45% FGs, 40% on 3s, 90% on FTs) he displayed as college senior will translate to meaningful degree against superior competition.
Geoff Petrie felt it would translate. And so he drafted him. And he waits, as do we.
What will it look like if Jimmer arrives, next season potentially, once he proclaims his stake as an NBA difference maker?
Well, if we split the difference between his rookie year and his senior season, we would look at something in the ball park of 42% FGs, 38% 3 pointers and 87% FTs.
If Jimmer garners, some way or somehow, 15 to 20 minutes per game, he can realize a PPS of 1.20 and boost his scoring average to 10 PPG. Not bad. This PPS exceeds the average of an NBA guard, betters slightly last year's PPS of Tyreke and MT, and ensures playing time against the best of the league.
Can Jimmer achieve these levels? Of course.
Why? Well...because he's Jimmer. And for the suggestions above he is likely to adopt.
Done. No further analysis required.
Believe. Have faith. Discard skepticism, pessimism and a sour vibe. Become a Jimmermaniac, all over again, or for the first time. The bandwagon has plenty of room. Jump on board, while there's elbow room to spare.
The 2012-13 season will be here before you can say 'NaPG'. Let the countdown to Jimmer-time commence.
Brace yourself for get-it-and-go, Kings fans. Brace yourself for rebound-and-run, Maloofian non-lover. Brace yourself for Jimmer-mania, Round II.
Fair enough, the exclamation point is pending....