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In Defense of Jimmer Fredette's Defense - Dispelling the Pre-Draft Fables

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Here's a bit of weekend reading for you.

Okay, so I'll admit it right off the bat, the title may be a little misleading but trust me - you want to read this beast all the way through.  It will open your eyes to some fallacies found in the conversation  surrounding Jimmer Fredette and the possibility of the Phoenix Suns taking the NCAA Player of the Year at 13 in this year's NBA draft.

If I'm going to call out some things that are wrong with what people are saying, let's first identify a few things that are right.

  1. The Utah Jazz may very well take Fredette at 12, a pick before the Suns.  But that doesn't make the focus of this article a moot point... trust me - continue reading my friends.
  2. Jimmer Fredette did not display very much motivation or production defensively during college.  VERY true, no argument here.

"So Eutychus...  what in tarnations are you trying to do here, you just admitted that you have no argument?" - Captain Obvious

Thanks Captain, now jump it and hold your questions until after I'm finished.

There is this fable that is gaining popularity among some faithful members of Bright Side of the Sun as well as local sports media giants like Paul Coro and our own Seth Pollack.

  • Drafting Jimmer Fredette goes against the new front office's declaration to get better defensively and to get bigger in size.

Suns beat writer Paul Coro expressed his agreement with the above statement during an interview he did on Thursday (5/26) for a local radio show.  You can listen to the audio here

Our own Seth wrote an article for SBNationAZ about it that can be found here.  In it he says,

The second part of this equation is the stated commitment from Suns President Lon Babby to get better defensively. 

In his final press conference of the season, Babby made a point to talk about the need to improve on the defensive end and add size to the team. Jimmer Fredette is the opposite of both things.

This my friends is what I'm going to call a fable. Don't get me wrong I'm a fan of Coro and I'm a fan of Seth, I love those dudes like uncles - but I'm going to open up a different perspective here.

Let's break this fable into two parts.

  1. Drafting Fredette goes against a franchise goal of getting better defensively.
  2. Drafting Fredette contradicts a franchise goal of adding size.

Starting with the first.

#1 - Getting Better Defensively

It's true, the Suns desperately need to improve on the defensive end.  As a team we saw small victories towards that goal this year with the development of Channing Frye, the acquisitions of Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus and the wise and standard work of Grant Hill and Jared Dudley

How do we get better defensively?  It's going to happen two ways - through personnel changes and through coaching changes (i.e. schemes, practice, demand, accountability).  By now we've all heard the word that 'cheap' Sarver has given the OK to add another salaried coach to the staff to help with the second part of that improvement (I forgot how to use the sarcasm font so I hope you realize I don't think Sarver is cheap). Alvin Gentry says,

"What I decided was we just needed someone from the outside with a new voice and outlook. It's not anything against who we have. Dan Majerle played for Pat Riley and was all-defensive, and I do have confidence in Bill Cartwright and the other guys, but we need a new approach because if we're ever going to be good, we need a whole new voice to be consistent."

I think this is a great step forward for the Suns and if this is the only thing the Suns do in the off-season (obviously it won't be the only thing) I'm sure the team will improve defensively.

For the personnel part... we have the Draft and we have Free-Agency.  Who goes and who stays!?  Who knows. But if you want guaranteed results as far as acquiring a defensive player you do it through free-agency... unless there's a Blake Griffin, nothing is guarantee in the draft.   You go out and get guys who are proven NBA defenders if that's your goal.  And where do you start?  What positions are the defensive priorities to upgrade? (Here's a kicker and one of my 'new perspectives')

It doesn't start with the Point Guard. In fact, the point guard position is the LAST priority when it comes to defense.

Let me prove my position.  Let's take a look at the best defensive teams in the league this year.  That's determined by who has the best team Defensive Rating (DRtg - a combination of defensive factors compiled and thrown together by scientists and super-evolved monkeys).

Oh - a note for you advanced statistics noobs, the lower the defensive rating the better, it's an estimation of the points allowed by a player/team per 100 possessions. 

Another note - the league average DRtg is 107.


Boston Celtics tied for first place with a team DRtg of 100.3
  • Not a single player on the roster sports a DRtg over 104.  9 out of their top 10 defensive players are Forwards or Centers, Rajon Rondo (defensive player #5 on the team) is the only guard.
Chicago Bulls tied for # 1 with 100.3
  • Also not a single player over 104 DRtg. And again - 8 out of their top 10 defenders are Forwards or Centers (C.J. Watson and Luol Deng round out spots 9 and 10).
Orlando Magic # 3 with 101.8
  • Not a single player over 106 DRtg.   Again - top defenders overwhelmingly are BIGS (7 out of 10). The three guards were Gilbert Arenas (#5), Jason Williams (#6.. but he only played in 16 games), and OH you know that one guy Jason Richardson?  Yeah miraculously he hit a career best 103 DRtg (#9 on the team) for the remainder of the season with the Orlando Magic.  Yeah, that same Jason Richardson who has been around a 110+ DRtg for the last 5 years and until the trade with Orlando this year was sporting an extremely sub-par defensive rating of 112 with the Phoenix Suns. Interesting.
Milwaukee Bucks # 4 with 102.5
  • Again - nobody over 106 DRtg.   AND AGAIN 8 out of the top 10 defenders on the team are Forwards or Centers. Brandon Jennings (#7) and Chris Douglas-Roberts (#10) are the guards rounding out the top 10.
Miami Heat # 5 with 103.5.
  • Now I could say nobody is over 106 again... but Bibby, Arroyo (107 and 109... and both Guards) and James Jones (107) screwed that up.   But I will repeat this - 8 out of the top 10 defenders on this team are BIGS.  Wade (#3) and Mario Chalmers (#9) are the exceptions.  Do you guys notice a pattern yet?

Let's keep going, this is fun.

L.A. Lakers # 6 with 104.3
  • Nobody over 108 and this time 9 out of the top 10 defensive players on the team are bigs.  Kobe is the exception (#8).
Dallas Mavericks # 7 with 105.0
  • 8 out of the top 10 defensive players are bigs.  Jason Kidd (#7) and Dominique Jones (#9) are the two guards.
Philadelphia 76ers # 8 with 105.0
  • YAWN. Yet again - 8 out of top 10 defensive players on this team are bigs.  Jrue Holiday (#7) and Jodie Meeks (#10) are the two guards.
Memphis Grizzlies are # 9 with 105.1
  • This time there is only 1 guard in the top 10 defensive players... 2 out of the top 11.  Tony Allen (#3) and Mike Conley (#11).
New Orleans Hornets are #10 with 105.2
  • Again 8 out of the 10 top defenders on this team are either Forwards or Centers.  Chris Paul (#3) and Marcus Thornton (#9) are the two guards.

I think you get the idea. Good defensive teams have a solid foundation of defensive BIGS (Centers and Forwards).

In case you wanted to know... the Phoenix Suns ranked #25 out of 30 defensively with a rating average of 110.4.  Zabian Dowdell was the only guard to crack our defensive top ten.  Marcin Gortat was our defensive anchor sporting a team best 106 (yet a career low for him)... it's also notable that in his 25 games with Orlando this year he had an amazing 99 DRtg

I'm not done yet.

Let's show a graphic here - I went through a list from last season of all the players in the NBA (There were 452 total players last year) and checked out where the point guards ranked defensively per their DRtgs. Let's take a look.


Here are my notes regarding this chart.

The first thing to notice - there isn't a single Point Guard in the defensive top 20.  In fact, there are only 5 impact points in the top 200 defensive players in the league.  Though some of those players you see near the top have great defensive ratings, you should always temper them with how many DWS (Defensive Win Shares) they earn

It's a point I've been harping on forever - if you want a good defensive point guard you will likely be sacrificing the right to have a good offensive point guard.  The only two exceptions to this notion are Derrick Rose and Chris Paul highlighted in orange.  They are both freaks and I'll have some more notes on them in a bit.  The two players highlighted in yellow, Kidd and Nelson are two players who are above average defensively yet a little below average offensively contributing - they're the in-between points in the league.   There you have it folks - 2 point guards in the entire league who have both great defense and great offensive ability. 

This is where I'll bring Jimmer Fredette back into the picture.  I'll repeat my 'perspective' - improving defensively at the point guard should be the last priority.  I already admitted that Jimmer did not display any defensive specialty in college.  To his defense - like he and his coach and others have pointed out to no avail - he was not expected to play much defense.  He played nearly 36 minutes per game this year in a 40 minute basketball game, that's 90% of the game.  Monta Ellis led the league in MPG this year with 40.3 in a 48 minute game - that's only 83% of the game. It wasn't that Jimmer was a ball hog on Utah - he averaged a good amount of assists... but HE WAS the offense.  So yeah, he didn't show much effort on the defensive end - the team still won 32 and lost only 5 and was ranked nationally in the top 10.   So while there are questions of his defensive motivation, there is no question of his offensive ability - except some of those crazy people that say things like this,

One of Fredette's weakness in the NBA will be Finishing At The Rim: Despite showing a nice mid-range game that should translate to the NBA well, Fredette could have trouble finishing in the paint at the next level. While he might be crafty enough to finish over his man, he has struggled at times finishing over help defenders.

Fredette doesn't always have the athletic ability to finish with help coming, so he is forced into double-clutched, circus-style lay-up attempts. This puts the basketball on a tee for the help defense to block it, and if he does get it over the help, there is a small chance the ball actually goes in.

Really?  Keep this critique of Fredette in mind as I'll highlight some of the pre-draft critiques of other top points in the league.

Let's look at some of the point guards on the list above.

Rajon Rondo?  Yeah he's good defensively - but we all see that at times he can almost be an offensive liability.  I am also of the tribe that besmirches his assist numbers a bit... because wouldn't we all like to throw passes to K.G., Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.  That doesn't mean I don't respect his ability to an effect - he's a top 10 PG in the league no doubt.. but I am bitter that he was chosen over Steve Nash for the All-Star game.  I dug a bit into the archives and looked at what people were saying about Rondo before he was drafted...

"Despite his highly intriguing physical attributes and skills, Rondo is anything but a surefire bet to pan out as a starting caliber NBA point guard...

The biggest concern about his game revolves around his perimeter shooting ability...

Rondo is neither incredibly tall, nor strong. His frame looks fairly frail and he could face some issues fighting through screens on the defensive end or finishing strong at the basket offensively until he finds a way to continue to add strength...

Not a surefire NBA point? Interesting.

CJ Watson - This year his defensive numbers look good right?!  Maybe it's the system (Chicago), the supporting players he takes the court with or the coaching demands & instruction...  because in his first 3 years in the NBA with Golden State the dude's Defensive ratings were, 07-08' - 113 (Rank #427) ,08-09' - 114 (#413), 09-10' - 112 (#384). He was touted as a defensive guard before he came up in the league... but this year with Chicago is the first time his numbers reflected his touted skill... talk amongst yourselves.

Chris Paul - Hands down the best all-around PG in the league.  He is a pimp.  But it's interesting to note - Jimmer's speed, strength and wingspan pre-draft measurements are greater than Paul's were... except for the hops.  Here's DraftExpress' blurb on his pre-draft-defense which amazingly... was criticized,

Defense: Very good on this end when he puts his mind to it, considering his limitations. Uses his unbelievable lateral quickness and 6-4 wingspan to dart in front of passes to create turnovers. Displays very good anticipation and quick hands when going for strips and deflections. Tough to get by due to his speed and improved strength. Struggles on the pick and roll, often late getting out and doesn’t do a great job fighting through screens. Can get posted up effectively due to his lack of size, or shot over the top of on the perimeter. Solid rebounder for his size and position. Will get anything that bounces long off the rim. Never late to a loose ball either.

And this one too...

Paul is a remarkably well-rounded point guard and prospect, but there are a few negatives to mention.

With his quick hands and dominant lateral quickness, you would expect Paul to be a dominant defender. However, he is mediocre at best in this area. While he ends up with a lot of steals, he isn't always an aggressive defender, and doesn't eat up opposing ball handlers the way that he should.

Wake Forest was a very poor defensive team this season, and it showed up in the tournament. While some of that falls on Skip Prosser's system and a few of Paul's teammates, Paul's inability to lock up primary ball handlers (go back to that West Virginia game again), is a place to start when discussing the Demon Deacons' defensive woes.

At a generous 6'0, Paul is a bit undersized as a point in the NBA. While his explosiveness more than makes up for it, Paul may have to adjust some of the things he does as far as attacking the basket. He may have trouble guarding some of the bigger point guards in the league as well.

  "Paul may have to adjust some of the things he does as far as attacking the basket" - does that sound familiar?  How's that working out for CP3?

Moving on.

Deron Williams -Now when you're looking at that chart I made up - notice how many great PG's are ranked sooooo soo terrible defensively (Another one I forgot was Chauncey Billups ranked #340, DRtg of 111, ORtg of 120 with and OWS of 6.6 - beastly), yet they more than make up for it with their offensive contributions. Maybe it's because good defense comes from good BIGS?   Just a thought.  Anyways - Jimmer himself has compared his game the most to that of Deron Williams, if you've seen Fredette's ball-handling skills and how he can create his own shot with his body and crossovers, you wouldn't argue. But get this from Deron's pre-draft critiques...

Doesn't have great footspeed or a very quick first step. Most NBA PG's have an extra burst of speed they can switch into to blow by their man and create their own shot, or get into the lane and create for others. Deron Williams doesn't. (EUTYCHUS LOL'D)

He finds ways around that on the NCAA level, using a wide array of body fakes and nifty dribbling to get his defenders off balance. Will he be able to do the same in the NBA?

Defensively, he plays very well on the college level, but could have trouble finding the lateral quickness to guard players like Stephon Marbury, Dwyane Wade and others.

His three point shot isn't super consistent just yet, but I don't think that's too much of a cause for concern. His release could be a little faster, but that will likely be worked on in the pros.

And lastly, how is his conditioning? He looks just a little pudgy; does he have room to get a little faster by shedding some weight? Is that just his body type?

Here's another critique - pay attention to this one,

"Defense: An average defensive player whose size allows him to be effective against many starting point guards. Would probably be more effective (like he was in college) if he wasn’t relied upon so heavily on the other end of the floor. Big and strong enough to push around most of the players he is matched up with. Is one of the league’s best at taking charges. Will get down in a stance and work to stay in front of his man, but lacks the lateral quickness and consistent focus to do so consistently.

Gets beat of the dribble when he’s forced to close out. Does a solid job fighting through screens. Will keep his man from blowing by him when he’s playing one-on-one, but will give up a lot of midrange looks. Rebounds the ball at a solid rate for a point guard. Comes up with some steals due to his quick hands. Won’t deflect a lot of passes, forcing most of his turnovers on the ball. Commits quite a few fouls for a point guard, using his size too aggressively. Will play great defense in spurts, but is forced to play too many minutes to be able to put in the type of effort needed to maintain that same level of intensity for an entire game.


Why is his playing time and offensive ball dominance an excuse for Williams but not for Jimmer?  Interesting.

I'll stop there with all these notes on that chart... but you can see.  Steve Nash is/was an All-Star/MVP/Franchise Player, Deron Williams, Tony Parker too - yet they are turrible defensively?  Yet each has seen a lot of success and others even achieved championships because they've been a part of teams with good front court defense (Like T.P. with Timmay and Billups with Wallace, etc.).

Have I convinced anyone yet that drafting a young proven offensively special point guard (which oh by the way... happens to be a concern of our Suns considering Nash's health and age and Aaron Brooks' mental health) won't be hypocrisy to the new stated FO Mission Statement?!?

Moving on.

#2 - Adding Size

What?  This is the second part of the SethCoro fable - that adding Jimmer would contradict the goal to add size to the team.  I hope when you guys adopt this opinion you mean that the fact the Suns are drafting a point guard instead of a PF or C is the contradiction - because I understand that view.  But we all need to understand that drafting is also about filling 'needs' and taking 'the best available player'.   Addressing our 'we need a scorer' issue and the future of our PG situation is a 'need' of the Suns and Jimmer fits both of those needs.

What I don't understand is when people say that Fredette is undersized at his position.  That doesn't fly with me.  The same people that say that are the same who believe he absolutely can't play defense at the next level because he lacks the 'tools' ... lateral quickness is a buzzword I've heard many use.  Take a look at his pre-draft measurements up against those of Deron Williams, Stephen Curry and I threw Ty Lawson in there because I think he is the epitome of the new young/strong/quick PG generation taking over the league.


Jimmer is a heavy and strong 6'2" - of the same mold as Williams and taller than Lawson - his Bench Press was only beaten by 5 players during this combine - all 5 were either Centers or Forwards. 

He obviously doesn't have the hops as do the others... but it says Williams only has a 35" max vert and he can throw down dunks from time to time - I've seen Fredette dunk it only once on a fastbreak (Youtube it), it was weak but it was a dunk.  I've only heard rumors that Steve Nash can dunk - so I'm not concerned about Fredette's lack of vertical leap - he jumped high and quick enough to get his jump shot up and off against anybody he faced in the NCAA.

His wingspan is only an inch or so shorter than Williams and the same longer than Curry's.  Lawson's got a small wingspan for a point guard - but we all know he does fine.

What was all that about he lacks lateral quickness?  It looks to me that he has the best lane agility time and the 2nd best sprint time out of the 4.   He definitely has the 'tools' to defend well, he has the mindset that he wants to prove he can defend - and I wouldn't bet against that.

Here's Andrew Siciliano talking about Jimmer's 'size'.

Now - I don't want to get into the whole "Is he a potential All-Star" conversation because those are always pointless until we actually see how a guy transitions to the NBA.  But Jimmer has size and he uses his body to create space on the perimeter and also to draw contact in the paint.  Watch his highlights and see how he uses his strength to get to the rim, and though someone might call his layups 'circus-shots' with little chance to go in... Fredette practices those just like some other PG we are pretty familiar with. 


You thought I'd never end right?  Well there's my argument.  Let me know what you think about what I've presented.  I've had a lot of fun researching point guards and defense in the league - it was awesome to see how the good defensive teams had solid defensive front-courts - and in turn it made everyone else look good.   It made me realize that Gortat may prove more important than ever and that we really do need either Lopez to open his eyes or go out and get a better defensive big.

Will drafting Jimmer be hypocrisy by Blanks and Babby, Gentry and company?  Not at all in my opinion. 

Will drafting Jimmer even be an option at 13 after Utah's 12?  Probably not.  But this was fun to write. :)

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