Jimmer Fredette continued his assault on the NCAA on Wednesday, putting up 43 points in a lovely win for his No. 9 BYU Cougars and drawing acclaim from established NBA players. On the season, Jimmer is averaging 27.4 points a game on an effective field goal percentage of .570. Those numbers are both highly absurd, even in a non-glamor conference.
Fredette was actually a supposed NBA Draft candidate last year after averaging 22 points as a junior, but Jimmer quickly announced he'd return for his senior season and put off pro ball. DraftExpress' Jonathan Givony has reported that the Knicks were unwilling to guarantee an early second-round pick to Fredette had he come out; the Knicks' two early seconds ended up going to Stanford's Landry Fields and Syracuse's Andy Rautins. (One of those picks worked out brilliantly.) It's not clear Fredette would have lasted into the 30s after a workout tour for NBA scouts and GMs.
And it's safe to say he'll be considered well higher than the second round this season. But how high will Jimmer go?
As Givony tweeted on Wednesday night, there remain questions about what role Fredette can fill in the NBA. He's considered a poor defender, even by the lowered standards most undersized scoring guards draw. An easy comparison for Fredette is J.J. Redick, who have carved out a solid career in Orlando. But Redick has become a plus defender; he's stronger and bigger than Fredette, and that frame has allowed Redick to get to proper NBA size. It's not clear Fredette can find that balance.
If he does, and learns to play enough NBA-level defense to stay on the court, he could be a crazy scorer in the NBA. You can't defend range, and Fredette has that in spades. Stephen Curry is often defended by longer, more experienced players, and he's managed just fine. But Curry also gets beat like a drum on the other end. Golden State is used to getting beat like a drum, and while Curry's hardly the only sieve on the Warriors' roster, it's a problem the team will have to deal with later on. Will Fredette land in that type of situation, where his explosive scoring will be enough of a salve that his defense will be ignored, or at least tolerated?
If the NBA has shown anything over the last few years, it's that bad defense can be tolerated if there are good intentions behind it. (Steve Nash, anyone?) Nothing suggests Fredette wouldn't be willing to work hard and do his best. And while he may not have the tools to be anything more than a bench scorer -- something like an unathletic, subtle Nate Robinson -- that's OK. You can do a lot worse in the mid-first round than a decent bench scorer with a good attitude.
Note: this post previously misstated reportage about the Knicks' guarantee (or lack thereof) in 2010.