Wednesday afternoon, news broke that another player had joined the list of those on the post-trade deadline scrap heap. BYU superstar Jimmer Fredette, fresh off an MVP season with the Shanghai Sharks, was in talks with NBA teams for a possible return.
Sources: China MVP, Jimmer Fredette, playing for Shanghai in playoffs, starting to engage NBA teams on March return. He's scored 37.5 PPG.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) March 1, 2017
In spite of the Grizzlies roster being set at 15 with the signing of Toney Douglas, fans have shown genuine interest in several of the names that have wound up on the buyout heap. But most of those options have already been claimed. Of all the players who were cut or bought out, only a few genuinely intriguing options (*cough* OMRI CASSPI *cough*) remain.
So with options dwindling, it’s worth asking: is Jimmer worth a gamble, or are the Grizzlies better off sticking with Toney Douglas?
Fredette entered the league during the strike-shortened 2011-12 season when he was drafted 10th overall to the Sacramento Kings. During his rookie season, he played in 61 games, starting 7 and averaging 7.6 points, 1.8 assists, and 1.1 turnovers in 18.6 minutes per game. He shot 36.1% from three, but was less effective elsewhere on the floor, with an eFG% of 47.3%.
His advanced metrics weren’t great that season, either. Fredette had a below average PER of 10.8 and 49.5% true shooting, coupled with a turnover percentage of 12.5%. His defensive numbers were bad, but his teammates’ weren’t much better. The Kings were next to last in defensive rating, and they allowed the most points per game.
Jimmer’s numbers improved the next season (at least on the offensive end), but following that campaign, he entered the journeyman stage of his career. From 2013-16, Fredette played for Sacramento, Chicago, New Orleans, and New York, as well as doing a brief stint with the Knicks’ D-League affiliate.
But that’s all in the past. Let’s talk about this season.
When Fredette couldn’t latch on with a team following Summer League, he went to play in China, where he promptly lit things up.
In 39 games for Shanghai, Jimmer averaged 37.3 points. He shot 40% from three on 11.4 three-point attempts per game, and added 8.1 rebounds per contest. His eFG% was 55.9%, and he posted a PER of 28.6. It was those numbers that earned him the MVP award.
All that in China is all well and good. But for anyone wanting to bring Jimmer over (i.e. me), the issue is going to be, how well do those numbers translate?
Answering that question is difficult. For a true comparison, you’d really need to use an NBA player who’d gone over to China, played for a full season, and then come back and proved that they could still compete.
As it turns out, we have someone who fits that exact bill.
During the lockout, current NBA Champion and Shirtless Plumber J.R. Smith made the decision to go play in China, and thanks to the fact that his contract did not contain an opt-out clause, he was forced to stay the entire season before returning to the NBA. He wound up playing in 32 games for the Zhejiang Golden Bulls, averaging 36.8 minutes per contest.
Now, let’s see how Smith’s numbers stack up against Jimmer’s.
Below, I’ve compared their per-36 numbers for those seasons, as well as their advanced stats.
|Player||PER||O Rtg||D Rtg||Net Rtg||TS %|
|Player||PER||O Rtg||D Rtg||Net Rtg||TS %|
Jimmer’s per game numbers were slightly better in terms of scoring, but when adjusted to per-36, their offensive numbers were similar. Jimmer shot well from beyond the arc, but even that was a good 6% below Smith’s average. Both averaged around the same rebounds per-36, and their assists, turnovers, and assist-to-turnover ratios were close.
Smith holds the advantage in PER, but other than that, the advanced numbers are almost identical. Offensive, defensive, and net ratings are all within percentages of each other. Smith’s true shooting was only slightly higher; Fredette likely made up ground in that category at the free throw line, where he held a 93% to 76% advantage.
All things considered, Fredette comes out comparing favorably to J.R. when it comes to their performances in China. And while it’s likely that Fredette wouldn’t live up to Smith’s career, at a low price, he might be the sort of lottery ticket (albeit a small one) that the Grizzlies could use.
The Question: Is Jimmer Worth It?
Why He Is: Fredette spent most of his time (67%) at the point, which means you’d be using him to replace Toney Douglas. Fizdale is familiar with Douglas, and familiarity breeds comfort. That said, Douglas hasn’t been the most consistent shooter this season. He’s shooting a paltry 17.6% from three for the year. You know who’s shooting better than that? Andrew Harrison.
Fredette also gives the Grizzlies something they’ve lacked: another consistent scorer and shooter for the second unit. Pairing Jimmer with Z-Bo and the rest of the Memphis bench would open up the reserve offense even further, and give them a much needed ball handler to run the offense with Conley out. There’s a question of how much you’re giving up on defense, but the boost in offense may be worth it.
Besides, Fredette likely won’t command a big price tag. Signing him for the rest of the season with a team option for next year gives you more upside than Toney Douglas with slightly more risk.
Why He Isn’t: Signing Jimmer would be a gamble with upside, but it’s still a gamble. For a team trying to maximize its competitive window with the Core Four, it might be too much of one. You know what you’re getting with Toney Douglas; even if it’s not great, it’s at least a known commodity.
The comfort in Fizdale’s system counts for something there, too. It may take Jimmer a little while to learn the plays, and the playoffs are just a month and a half away. Besides, that assist-to-turnover number isn’t encouraging, particularly for a point guard. If the Grizzlies want a steady hand, they’re better off standing pat.
Douglas isn’t having his greatest year shooting, but that doesn’t mean it’s out of the question that he returns to form. Even factoring in this stinker of a season, Douglas is a career 35.5% shooter from three. It’s possible (though not probable) he gets hot at some point.
So, Grizz fans. You’ve seen the evidence. Now, what do you think? Should the Grizzlies get rid of Douglas to gamble on Jimmer? Tell us in the comments below?