Tim Frazier performance at point guard earned him deal with Pelicans for rest of season

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

NBA scouts grade potential draft prospects based on a range of basketball skills, but also in a few off-the-court categories, such as intelligence, maturity and willingness to be coached. Based on that criteria, then-Penn State University point guard Tim Frazier measured off the charts in 2014. Not only was Frazier a three-time selection to the Big Ten’s All-Academic team with the Nittany Lions, he also earned the conference’s Sportsmanship Award as a senior.

Unfortunately for the 6-foot-1, 170-pound point guard, he still went undrafted two years ago, the start of what’s been an eventful path to finally getting a chance this month to play significant minutes in the NBA. After playing for Philadelphia and Portland over the past two seasons, the Pelicans signed him March 16 to a 10-day contract and recently inked him for the rest of 2015-16. New Orleans could’ve just given Frazier a second 10-day deal and continued to evaluate him, but he’s played so well that the Pelicans decided to keep him on the roster for the final three weeks.

“That’s huge,” Frazier said of being signed for the remainder of the campaign. “It takes a little weight off your plate, in (terms of the pressure of) performing. I’m just blessed to be here and know that I’m here for the rest of the season. I just want to give it my best and make the most of it.”

The Houston native has done exactly that during his two-week stint in the Crescent City, notching double-digit scoring in each of his first six appearances. He had a rare below-average game in Monday’s 99-91 win over New York (4 points, 1/7 shooting), but still managed to grab six rebounds and two steals. Over seven games, the D-League’s 2015 Most Valuable Player is averaging 12.7 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists, in a modest 26.0 minutes per game. It’s a small sample size, but he’s also the rare point guard shooting over 50 percent from the field (50.8), including 4/9 three-point accuracy.

“He’s done a great job. He’s a real smart player, knows the game,” said Pelicans forward Luke Babbitt, calling to mind Frazier’s college resume. “He’s had some experience in Portland and been in the D-League, so it’s not like he’s a rookie. He’s fit right in and that’s a credit to him, being prepared and staying ready. He’s a pure point guard. He knows when to probe and when to look for his own shot, because we need that too right now.”

“He works,” said wing Alonzo Gee, who also once played in the D-League. “He’s determined to be here, always working on his game, always in the gym.”

Frazier said his approach comes partly from his mother, who emphasized education to him at an early age. Penn State’s academic reputation appealed to Frazier; he has a degree from the school in communications arts and sciences, as well as a diploma in supply chain and information systems.

“My mom didn’t play,” Frazier said of his upbringing. “She always put academics first, so that was one of the biggest things I looked at in choosing a college. I always wanted to make my mom proud, getting my degrees.”

In terms of the off-court recognition he earned from the Big Ten as a senior, Frazier also credits his family background.

“You want to be a great guy on and off the court. That’s the way I was raised, to build as many relationships as possible,” he said. “Going to Penn State on a full ride and getting your degree, people look up to you every day, even when you don’t realize it. So you always want to be on your best behavior and do the right things – and the right things will come to you.”