Report: Jimmer Fredette will go to China, play for Yao Ming’s team

Jimmer Fredette looks on. (Elsa/Getty Images)
Jimmer Fredette looks on. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Former national college player of the year and 2011 NBA lottery pick Jimmer Fredette will reportedly continue his basketball career in China:

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It’s a one-year deal worth “north of $1 million,” league sources tell’s Ian Begley. Fredette will join Guerschon Yabusele, the French forward drafted by the Boston Celtics with the 16th overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft and later stashed in Shanghai, on the Sharks roster for the season ahead. Shanghai went 18-20 last season, finishing 11th out of 20 teams in the Chinese Basketball Association.

This, it’s fair to say, is not how many saw things playing out when the high-scoring, sweet-shooting BYU standout went pro, taken 10th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks and traded on draft night to the Sacramento Kings, back in 2011. What a difference five years makes.

After rising to superstar status with his long-range-bombing exploits at BYU, the Kings were eager to capitalize on the box-office appeal of “Jimmermania,” but the 6-foot-2 Fredette struggled to make an impact at the next level. He found it more difficult to generate shots against the length and quickness of NBA defenders while often floundering in his attempts to slow opponents on the other end of the floor.

Before long, fellow 2011 draftee Isaiah Thomas — the very last pick of the draft, the so-called “Mr. Irrelevant” — was earning more minutes than Fredette, whose playing time steadily declined over the next two seasons until Sacramento waived him late in the 2013-14 season. The Chicago Bulls picked him up off the waiver wire, in hopes that his long-range shooting might help open up their second-unit offense, but he never really caught on with Tom Thibodeau’s club, logging just 56 minutes over eight appearances before Chicago let him walk at season’s end.

The New Orleans Pelicans took a flyer on Fredette in the summer of 2014, giving him a one-year veteran’s minimum deal to see if he could help give burgeoning monster Anthony Davis more room on the interior. Once again, though, his defensive ineffectiveness — married this time with an inability to get buckets, as he shot just 38 percent from the field and 18.8 percent from 3-point land in 50 games — relegated him to the far reaches of Monty Williams’ rotation, and left him on the free-agent heap come the summer. A 2015-16 training camp deal with the San Antonio Spurs didn’t result in a regular-season job; an early-season return to the injury-wracked Pelicans produced nothing of note before another release, which sent him to the D-League.

After the Spurs dismissed him, an NBA assistant coach who had worked with Fredette told Michael Lee of The Vertical that Jimmer’s problem was that he remained intent, five years into his pro career, on bending an NBA team to his will, like the good old days at Brigham Young:

“Jimmer thinks everybody is stupid,” said an NBA assistant who worked with Fredette. “He thinks everybody needs to come and just turn over their offense and let him shoot it anytime he wants. That’s not how the league works.” […]

“He won’t adjust his game for it,” he said. “He’ll tell you, ‘This is what I did at BYU.’ Well, BYU, that’s a long time ago.”

Fredette spent the bulk of last season with the Westchester Knicks, the D-League affiliate of the New York Knicks, working to rediscover his shooting touch while showing he could also help run a team and get stops. The Glens Falls, N.Y., native earned a D-League All-Star berth, won MVP honors in that midseason exhibition, and averaged 21.1 points, 5.0 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 1.8 steals in 35.8 minutes per game in 40 appearances in Westchester, shooting 45.8 percent from the floor and 41.1 percent from 3-point land.

The D-League work earned Fredette a 10-day look-see with the Knicks after the All-Star break, but interim head coach Kurt Rambis preferred to lean on vets Jose Calderon and Sasha Vujacic rather than give the call-up much of a chance to strut his stuff. Fredette saw just five total minutes in two appearances; he made the one 3-pointer he attempted, and got fouled trying to attempt another one.

When his 10 days were up, the Knicks moved on, leaving Fredette looking for another opportunity to latch on to a pro team. He found it this summer with the Denver Nuggets’ Summer League squad, averaging 15.2 points, 2.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 27.6 minutes per game in five appearances for Denver’s entrant in Las Vegas. But with recent first-round picks Emmanuel Mudiay, Gary Harris, Jamal Murray and Malik Beasley in the backcourt mix, veterans Jameer Nelson and Will Barton in line for significant minutes, and an already crowded frontcourt as well, there just wasn’t any room to take a chance on a player who, five years down the line, had still yet to pop.

And so, Fredette moves on, choosing a lucrative gig in China over another low-paying D-League stint. This doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the NBA line for Jimmer — the CBA regular season ends in February and the playoffs end in March, which leaves the door open to joining a team for a postseason run, like Michael Beasley and Andrew Goudelock did with the Houston Rockets this year. If nobody bites, though, it might be time for all parties involved to abandon hope that “Jimmermania” will ever actually take root in the best league in the world. Weep not for the memories.

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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