Last week, Sacramento Kings guard Jimmer Fredette scored a career-high 24 points against the New York Knicks, hitting six 3-pointers, some of which were several feet behind the three-point arc. He was awarded player of the game, and his performance really reminded basketball fans of the time lightning struck in Provo when the scoring phenom played for BYU.
For many basketball fans, this was the first time since he entered the NBA that they had heard his name. They remember the hype surrounding him and watching him win the Naismith Player of the Year and the John R Wooden Award.
But since those memorable college days, however, the national story has gone cold. Many wondered what had happened to the scoring sensation.
When just skimming the surface, Fredette's numbers this season (through Feb. 17) haven't been too impressive. His season averages of 6.0 points per game, 1.5 assists per game, and 1.1 rebounds per game are well below average in the NBA.
But the surface doesn't tell the whole story, and in Fredette's case, not even half of it. One must dig deeper to find his true value.
What people remember most from Fredette's days at BYU was his ability to shoot the 3-pointer. And this season, Fredette has shown that he can still do just that. In fact, he just might be doing it better than he ever has.
He leads the NBA in three-point percentage, with an astonishing 49.3 percent, which is no small feat. His percentage is higher than well-known sharpshooters such as Stephen Curry, Kyle Korver, Kyrie Irving, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, and 3-Point Contest winner Marco Belinelli.
Not only has Fredette remained accurate from beyond the arc, but in every aspect of shooting the ball. He is shooting a career-high field-goal percentage at 47.7 percent, as well as a career-high in free-throw percentage with a remarkable 94 percent. If he had the needed amount of free-throw attempts to qualify for the leaderboards, Fredette would be ranked first in the NBA.
Those numbers are without a doubt remarkable and that poses the question: Why hasn't he gotten more publicity? The answer is simple.
Despite these career-high percentages, Fredette is actually averaging a career-low number of minutes with a mere 11.5 per game. While Fredette has been amazingly efficient, he has done so with very little time on the court.
So why hasn't he gotten more minutes? That's the million-dollar question.
Many critics point to his sub-par defensive ability, but that hasn't stopped certain players in the past. Sharpshooters like Korver, JJ Reddick, and Jodie Meeks get sufficient playing time based on their ability to shoot the ball, and certainly not for their talent on the defensive side of the ball.
Is it because he is nothing more than a great shooter? No, the story doesn't just end with Fredette's shooting ability. His Player Efficiency Rating, which measures how productive a player is in every facet of the game with the minutes he is given is at 16.91, and it is higher than Gordon Hayward, Roy Hibbert, Kevin Garnett, and 2014 All-Star Joe Johnson. Of every player rated higher than him, there is only one in the league that plays fewer minutes per game than Fredette.
Perhaps one of the most remarkable things about Fredette's game is the fact that he has shot the ball so well this year with so little time on the court. As many shooters can vouch, it is much easier to shoot the ball well when you can get in some sort of rhythm, a luxury that Fredette doesn't have. He normally enters the game for two- or three-minute spurts, and then is taken out of the game. He hasn't had much of any form of consistent minutes in his NBA career.
While many players have the opportunity to catch fire, gain confidence, or get into a groove, Fredette has to perform instantly. He has no time to let the game come to him. He has to be aggressive with every second he is given, and make the most of it. And so far, he has definitely delivered.
Fredette is at the peak of his game. What he is doing with the small bits of time he is given is remarkable, and leaving many to wonder what he could be with a sufficient amount of minutes. Could he be a bust that was never meant to succeed in the NBA? Maybe. Could he be the same deadly scorer he was at BYU? Again, maybe.
Unless he gets a solid opportunity, fans will never know. Until then, fans can appreciate his efficiency now, and wait patiently for the possibility of lightning striking again.
For additional sports updates, you can follow Mitch Kunzler on Twitter at @MitchKunzler.
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