Utah Jazz in a jam when it comes to drafting Jimmer Fredette

By Lynn Debruin

Associated Press

Published: Monday, June 20 2011 3:25 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Jimmer Fredette has his own reality show, a song that's amassed nearly a million YouTube views and a legion of followers.

He also has a legion of detractors, making him possibly the most polarizing player in this year's NBA Draft.

Caught in the middle are the Utah Jazz, who with two first-round picks very well may be in position to pull the trigger at No. 12 and draft the BYU sharpshooter turned national sensation.

The question is should they and will they?

"I don't envy Kevin O'Connor on this one," Steve Kerr, a former NBA player and Phoenix Suns executive, said of the Jazz general manager. "If they don't take him and he blows up and is really good, that's a problem. Now they're the team that screwed up and didn't take Jimmer when he was right in their backyard.

"If (O'Connor) does take him and Jimmer doesn't pan out, then it's the opposite. You have to follow your gut. If you like him, take him. Either way it's a lot of pressure."

O'Connor gets to make the final decision Thursday on draft night. It won't be without input from Walt Perrin, the team's vice president of player personnel.

Perrin knows what it's like to draft a hometown hero.

He was director of scouting with the Detroit Pistons in 2000 when they held the No. 14 pick. They used it on a guy who grew up in Flint, Mich., and starred at Michigan State, leading the Spartans to the NCAA championship just a few months earlier.

But Mateen Cleaves would hardly become the all-everything player that LeBron James was in Cleveland and Derrick Rose is in Chicago.

Cleaves lasted one year in Detroit, averaging 5.4 points and 2.7 assists, before bouncing around and eventually out of the league.

"It didn't work out that well," Perrin said. "There was not that pressure with the team in Detroit as there is right now with Jimmer."

Perrin doesn't live in Salt Lake City, so he doesn't hear what coach Tyrone Corbin and O'Connor must deal with on a daily basis.

But he saw the throng of media that flocked to Fredette's workout last week, and he hears the endless speculation.

If the Jazz go big with the No. 3 pick, a guard figures to be a top priority with the No. 12 pick.

The guards most often mentioned for picks 10 through 15 are Fredette, Colorado sophomore Alec Burks and Washington State junior Klay Thompson.

Fredette's squeaky-clean image gives him an advantage over Thompson, who has a black mark on his resume following a March incident in which he was cited for marijuana possession and suspended for Washington State's regular-season finale.

Burks could be the perfect fit for the Jazz if they want an aggressive scorer with great court vision.

Neither Burks nor Thompson, both of whom worked out for the Jazz on Monday, put up the kind of numbers Fredette did in leading the NCAA in scoring (28.9 points per game) and earning national player of the year honors.

As for marketing, Fredette has plenty of appeal.

"Short-term, Jimmer no doubt would sell some tickets and create excitement and intrigue in Utah," said Jeff Robbins, president of the Utah Sports Commission. "But when the day is done, his long-term impact will be based on performance, just like with any business, and whether or not he helps his team win."

Jazz President Randy Rigby said Fredette clearly has impressed the community.

On the court are where the concerns are — with Fredette's defense, his athleticism and ability to play the point.

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