Every June, the NBA Draft features college stars with uncertain pro futures. Sometimes those players become stars (e.g. Kevin Love), sometimes they fail horribly (e.g. Trajan Langdon), and sometimes they defy easy binaries and have successful careers as role players (e.g. J.J. Redick). In 2011, BYU scorer Jimmer Fredette was one such player. After a collegiate career in which he inspired "Jimmermania" and put up gaudy shooting stats, Fredette was considered an iffy prospect due to his suspect defense and the fact that he wouldn't be able to dominate the ball at the pro level. Nevertheless, Jimmer was made the 10th overall pick by the Milwaukee Bucks and subsequently dealt to the Sacramento Kings as part of a draft-day trade.
Fredette's two full seasons in Sacramento have been less than stellar. Despite respectable shooting from three-point range (38.4 percent for his career), he has indeed struggled defensively and has not settled into a clear role. In fact, Fredette's minutes average dropped in his second season from 18.6 to 14.0 per game, which is typically not a good sign.
In the Kings' celebratory opener Wednesday night against the Denver Nuggets, Jimmer failed to get into the game. Yet he got arguably worse news on Thursday. According to a report from Sam Amick of USA Today, the Kings have declined to pick up his fourth-year option for the 2014-15 season, making Fredette a free agent in the summer of 2014:
The NBA career of former college sensation Jimmer Fredette took another turn for the worse Thursday, when, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, the Sacramento Kings informed him they would not exercise the 2014-15 team option that would have paid him $3.1 million for that season.
The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because the decision had not yet been announced.
Fredette, the former Brigham Young star who was taken 10th overall in the 2011 draft, didn't play in the team's regular season opener Wednesday night against the Denver Nuggets and is behind Greivis Vasquez, Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Thornton and rookie Ben McLemore in the Kings' backcourt and will now be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Where he's playing leading up to that point is another question entirely.
A trade would seem to be the next step, and Amick does in fact note that several teams have inquired about potential deals. Somewhat surprisingly (for people who like easy-to-write stories), the Utah Jazz are not one of those teams despite Jimmer's immense popularity in the region.
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The Kings' decision is frankly a little surprising, if not altogether shocking. While the team's backcourt is quite crowded and figures to include more playing time-worthy players in the future, Fredette's $3.1 million salary for next season is minor enough that he presents a low-risk option to round out the roster. He hasn't set the world on fire, but his rookie season was shortened by the lockout and last season was more about the franchise's uncertain future than anything that happened on the court. To these eyes, it looks as if the Kings are giving up on Jimmer a little early.
That said, it's not so shocking that we can't explain it. In fact, it's somewhat likely that Fredette is falling victim to a fate common to controversial draft picks whose teams change decision-makers shortly into their careers. He was chosen by general manager Geoff Petrie in 2011, and his ouster this summer means that Fredette probably lost his biggest cheerleader within the organization. The new regime of owner Vivek Ranadive, general manager Pete D'Alessandro, and head coach Michael Malone could be forgiven for feeling differently. Jimmer clearly hasn't given his detractors immense reason to change their minds over his first two seasons.
Better, then, to cut ties with an unwanted player and see if it's possible to get a return for him before he leaves for nothing. If Jimmer isn't part of the Kings' future, maybe there's no point in pretending otherwise.
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