SALT LAKE CITY — Mahatma Gandhi said, “Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.”
Doesn’t Jimmer Fredette know it.
He made enough mistakes in his first three years in the NBA that his departure from the Sacramento Kings is near. Numerous reports say the Kings are in the process of buying out his contract. Either way, Fredette is a free agent next summer.
Any team looking for a baby-faced, sweet-tempered, distance-shooting guard can take a shot at restarting his career. This time, though, it will be minus the hype that accompanied Fredette when he was drafted in 2011.
Fredette is hoping that elsewhere he’ll have the freedom to grow, something many believe he lacked in Sacramento. But this isn’t about an organization blindly ignoring his talent. Rather, it’s the tale of a player who fills one need. If the team he’s playing for doesn’t want that particular talent, or wants more to go along with it, then it’s time to move on.
An NBA axiom nowadays is that the two most important shots in basketball are the layup and the 3-pointer. Fredette can convert those in bunches. It’s likely someone will sign him for a playoff run, hoping for a scoring jolt.
Fredette has been a victim of his own hype. It’s not that he oversold himself — in fact, he is admirably modest — but he had the stats, and the name, to generate unreal expectations. He was a great college player with a narrow but potentially valuable skill set.
“He is a situational player, where he’s a second unit type guy,” said one NBA source, who asked not to be identified. “He comes in during the second quarter of the game. He’s a shooting guard, not a point guard. That’s not his skill set. He needs a pass-happy point guard next to him.”
Fredette’s problems stem from both himself and those around him. His speed is suspect in a league built on athleticism. At the same time, Sacramento isn’t exactly a sharing team. Fredette needs screens and kick-out passes, neither of which is a Kings' strong suit.
That doesn’t mean Fredette is headed directly to Europe. Despite averaging just 15 minutes in his three-year career, his shooting totals rose this year. He is making 47.5 percent from the field, including 49 percent from 3-point range. Few teams would scoff at that.
The high end of his potential is to become like former Chicago guard Steve Kerr, who benefitted from great play, including great passing, by Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan.
Fredette scored 24 points, making six 3-pointers two weeks ago, but as of Tuesday morning had played only four minutes since. Teams have until March 1 to buy out contracts and place players on waivers. A player can be signed until April 17, so anyone looking for an extra boost from the bench for the playoffs could well be interested.
Fredette becomes a free agent on July 1.
Great individual players who can also pass could bring out Fredette’s strong points. The NBA source said Fredette could thrive with a team such as Miami or Oklahoma City. When players collapse on LeBron James or Kevin Durant that leaves the perimeter open.
Another team where Fredette could succeed is Phoenix.
“Jeff Hornacek is the type of coach that believes in his shooters,” the source said.
“Fredette is a system player. He needs a screen because of his lack of jumping ability and foot speed. He needs a screen to get separation.”
According to the source, Fredette’s disappointing career in the NBA isn’t entirely a matter of bad luck.
“Some of it is his fault. He’s got to work harder on defense. If you’re a step slow, you’ve got to work harder by being in your stance longer and studying the game plan and playing the angles defensively. They’re all parts of it.”
Sacramento knew all this. It didn’t have the players to complement Fredette and Fredette didn’t improve his defense enough.
“He needs to reinvent his career,” the source said.
Jimmermania might be dead, but Jimmermodesty still has a chance.
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