What’s Ahead for Jimmer?

By Patrick Kinahan

Three weeks away from the regular season ending, the Jimmer Fredette story has turned into a big surprise.

Unfortunately for him, the surprise isn’t the kind he wanted. And he probably can’t wait until it ends, which for his team in its current state always comes on the last day of the regular season.

The Sacramento Kings, who play the Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena on Friday, will not make the playoffs. And Fredette will not have made much of an impact during his rookie season.

Drafted No. 10 by the Milwaukee Bucks, who then traded him, Fredette began his NBA career with little chance to match the hype. Few rookies enter the NBA with as much publicity as Fredette got during his four years at Brigham Young, esspecially his attention-capturing final year in which he led the nation in scoring and was the college player of the year.

From this perspective, darned near no matter what he accomplished this season, Fredette was doomed to fail. Accounting for the outrageous expectations, hardly anyone thought his first season would turn out the way it has.

At 6-foot-2, Fredette has the skills of a shooting guard disguised in a point guard’s frame. From a starter to a role player to a bust, opinions greatly varied on his ability to make the transition from college star to professional player.

On its own merit, some could argue that Fredette’s lack of production this season came was no surprise. But it goes far beyond the 7.2 points and 1.8 assists he’s averaged.

His rookie season has been an unpleasant surprise on two fronts. Not only has Fredette barely made an impact this season, he’s actually not played even one second in five games. And even worse, another rookie has jumped ahead of him.

As the Kings play out the string of another losing season, point guard Isaiah Thomas has been organization’s best story. With little fanfare, the 5-foot-9 Thomas has been a huge discovery.

Not only did every NBA team bypass the chance to draft Thomas, only one thought enough of him to not bypass him twice. The Kings drafted Thomas with the last pick, behind 59 players.

While Fredette sits, Thomas prospers. For the time being, the future looks bright for only one player.

It didn’t start out that way.

With Paul Westphal as coach, Fredette had a significant role. In the eight games before Westphal was fired, Fredette averaged 25 minutes. With Keith Smart as coach, Fredette has played a total of 11 minutes in Sacramento’s last three games.

Along the way, Smart has bristled at questions about Fredette’s playing time. In multiple postgame interviews, Smart has cut off reporters when the line of questioning even hints at Fredette.

Clearly, Smart has felt the pressure surrounding his decisions on playing time for the franchise’s most hyped draft pick. Smart also hasn’t backed away from saying that in time Fredette will make his mark. Assistant coach Bobby Jackson, who works with Fredette individually, also concurs with his boss.

From a distance, it’s hard to figure out the situation.

For the first eight games of March, Fredette played at least 10 minutes in every game. In the ninth game, he got seven minutes but was back up to 20 minutes in the 11th game.

Recognizing that injuries and other issues factor into it, it’s got to be hard for Fredette to find any kind of flow. As it stands now, he’s nothing more than spot relief when a starter needs a brief rest.

For his part, Thomas plays a major role under Smart. Whether he makes only three of 13 shots, as he did in 48 minutes in an overtime loss to Houston, or goes for 28 points and 10 assists in 41 minutes in the loss to San Antonio on Wednesday, Thomas will be on the court.

So there you have it. While his coach professes hope for the future, Fredette faces an uncertain situation.