Jimmer Fredette’s NBA career didn’t work out exactly the way he wanted it to. The Naismith College Player of the Year was the No. 10 overall pick out of BYU in 2011, chosen by the Sacramento Kings, but five years later he wasn’t even playing in the United States anymore. In 2016 he took his game to China and the Chinese Basketball Association, where he’s been playing for the Shanghai Sharks.
“It’s just always nice to play in front of American audiences again. You never know who is watching, but at this point I’m just trying to get better as a player and have fun doing it. I have one year left in China for my contract, but after that I’ll be a free agent and we’ll see what’s out there.”
Fredette leaves it vague, not committing to anything one way or another, but after winning the CBA’s International Regular Season MVP award for the 2016-2017 season, what’s “out there” is of course the NBA. But just because Fredette would consider a return to the NBA doesn’t mean that teams would be jumping to sign him. He was a poor fit in his five seasons. He’s an excellent scorer, but the NBA wasn’t ready for him, sapping him of his major gift. And he was dreadful on defense to boot.
Fredette told Sports Illustrated that he’s become a better player since going over to China, but maybe not in the ways that would get him onto an NBA team.
“I’ve been able to go out and play where I’m a leader of the team, and looked at to do a lot of different things. Some nights I have to be a facilitator and get other guys involved, some nights I have to rebound the basketball well, and a lot of nights they need me to score. People see the scoring and oftentimes that’s all they think about with me, but I try to get better at all aspects my the game and become a better basketball player.”
The CBA isn’t known for its defense. And with the Shanghai Sharks, Fredette gets to be the playmaker he was with BYU, which notably didn’t work out when he was in the NBA. But he thinks the way the NBA has changed in the last few years has given him an advantage.
“Things have changed a lot from when I entered the league with three-point shooting now at a real premium as well as guys who can really hit the deep threes and give their superstars space to operate. There’s a lot of transition, a lot of moving the ball, things I excel in, so I think the league has really changed to my favor since I got into the NBA.”
Fredette returning to the NBA next year is certainly a possibility. Teams have done crazier things than taking a flier on a former top ten pick who will be 30 in 2019. But regardless of what he’s saying about his game and how he’s a better fit for the NBA now than he was a few years ago, he’ll actually have to show teams that he can play at the NBA level. And the jury is definitely out on that.
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