The 2011 NBA Draft is generally considered to have a weak crop of talent, but there are several very intriguing, if flawed, prospects. Perhaps the most compelling is BYU guard Jimmer Fredette, a young man whose celebrity drove the college basketball narrative this season and even inspired a DSM-recognized form of mania. As a draft prospect, he excites with his unquestioned shooting ability and raises concerns with his presumed lack of defense. Whichever team drafts him will get a marketable young player, if not necessarily a building block for the future.
Whatever the case, he's a likely lottery pick, although it's unclear if he's more likely to go towards the middle or end of it. So his workouts matter quite a bit, mostly so teams can see him against NBA-level athleticism.
To his credit, Fredette is not shying away from that challenge. In fact, he wants to face two of his direct draft competitors in private workouts. From Brian T. Smith for the Salt Lake Tribune (via EOB):
Former Brigham Young guard Jimmer Fredette is scheduled to work out next Wednesday with the Jazz, and he has every intention of sticking to the date. But Fredette is willing to change his plans to accommodate the schedules of Kemba Walker (Connecticut) and Brandon Knight (Kentucky). And whether the two highly touted 2011 NBA Draft prospects will face off against Fredette in Salt Lake City remains to be seen.
With his draft stock rising, Fredette wants to work out against Walker and Knight to prove that he can compete with the point guards, who are expected to be taken early during the first round.
It remains to be seen whether or not Walker and Knight will accept Jimmer's challenge, but it seems unlikely given that draft workout schedules are pretty hectic and that most lottery prospects don't like to work out against other lottery prospects. Neither Walker nor Knight would drop out of the lottery with a poor performance against Fredette, but they also wouldn't stand to gain much. Jimmer is the one with something to prove in this hypothetical workout, not the two guards who faced each other in a Final Four game just a few months ago.
Still, the gesture matters as an emblematic act even if this workout never happens. As a Mormon who played at a school that suspended a top player for having sex, Fredette seems to have a squeaky clean image as a nice young boy who just wants to play basketball. But he's actually pretty brash, both for moments like this one and the way he plays on the court. At BYU, Jimmer was a gunner at BYU who took shots that once got Allen Iverson termed a ballhog who wouldn't ever learn to play within a team structure. The man plays with brass balls; nothing about his style suggests humility or aw-shucks wonder at getting the chance to play a child's game on a huge stage.
That confidence (or arrogance, if you want to make it negative) indicates a player who sees himself as a star despite the fact that his skills suggest he's a better fit as a role player. Will he be able to shift that mindset when he enters the NBA? These are questions that get asked about many prospects, and there's no reason to forget them in this case just because Fredette doesn't drink beer or have premarital sex. The basketball court is its own world where off-court habits doesn't easily translate to on-court chemistry. Whether or not teams realize that about Jimmer could affect the ease with which he adjusts to the NBA game.