Jimmer’s NBA adjustment, Suns’ trade bait

An unscheduled Sunday drive into the lane was unleashed upon the NBA by

some of its most distinguished point guards.

Deron

Williams scored 57 points for a New Jersey Nets squad that, in four previous games this year, had managed to scrape together fewer than 80.

Rajon Rondo spiked his trade value for the Boston Celtics by providing

triple-double trouble for Linsanity and the New York Knicks. Derrick

Rose put up 35 points for the Chicago Bulls, Denver’s Ty Lawson flirted

with a triple-double of his own and Chris Paul went for 28 and 10 dimes

in the L.A. Clippers’ win over the Houston

Rockets.

And before the ultimate sage, Steve Nash,

knocked in 19 points during the Phoenix Suns’ victory over the

Sacramento Kings, a kid sitting in the visitor’s locker room was

contemplating what it will take just to secure his place in the

league.

A year ago, Jimmer Fredette was gunning the

BYU Cougars into March Madness and accelerating a national hoop debate

regarding his potential as an NBA player. Now, 33 games into his rookie

season with the Kings, the 10th overall pick in last summer’s draft

isn’t even working at point guard. Sacramento has turned to Isaiah

Thomas, the diminutive whirlwind out of Washington, to run its offense.

Thomas, selected 50 spots (last pick, second round) later in the same

draft, has provided the Kings with a sometimes-dynamic

option.

In Sunday’s game with the Suns, Fredette

spent the majority of his 10 minutes sort of loitering in the corner

while other Kings — including John Salmons — attempted to initiate

Sacramento’s offense in relief of the relentless Thomas. Fredette, who

had made 8 of 14 shots from the field in back-to-back double-digit

scoring efforts against the two Los Angeles teams, didn’t do much (no

points, 0 for 1 from the field, one rebound) during his time in

Phoenix.

This three-game contrast defines his first

spin through the NBA.
 
“It’s been up and

down … up and down,” Fredette said when asked to assess his rookie

production. “I’ve had some really good nights and some not-so-good

nights.”

One season after leading NCAA Division I

players in scoring (28.9 points per game), Jimmer is giving the Kings

7.9 points per game and making a reasonably good 39 percent of his

3-point attempts. But 39 also represents his overall field-goal

percentage.

The adjustments have been a struggle.

While Fredette was working as backup point guard for coach Paul Westphal

to start the season, Westphal made some public declarations about the

questionable professionalism of Kings center DeMarcus Cousins. The Kings

made a coaching change, promoting assistant Keith Smart. Now that Smart

is in the big chair, Thomas has produced some big moments for the

Kings, with former starting point guard Tyreke Evans (a former Rookie of

the Year) sliding over when Thomas sits

down.

Fredette, who demonstrated the ability to

create opportunities with the ball in college, has been on a slower

learning curve off the dribble in the bigger, badder NBA. His ability to

make deep shots has, for now, limited his participation to that of

spot-up shooter.

“There’s a lot of different things I

need to work on,” Fredette said. “But just continuing to work in

decision-making … when to shoot it, when to pass it in different

areas, and then keep working defensively.”

Defense

was the greatest concern NBA personnel sharpies had regarding Jimmer’s

adjustment to professional basketball. At BYU, his work at that end of

the floor often appeared to be painfully rare. In Sunday’s game against

the Suns, Fredette spent most of his time trailing lane penetration by

Nash and Sebastian Telfair, situations made worse by what appeared to be

defensive-tactic uncertainty by teammates defending the

screen.

It was another in a season of lessons for

Fredette, who has scored 10 or more points in 11 games this season,

including four consecutive games in late January that included efforts

of 19 and 20.

“I think the biggest thing is just the

talent level,” he said of his assimilation, “the fact that you play

against a great player every night and you have to be ready to play

every night.

“It’s being more consistent, especially

when you don’t know how many minutes you’re going to get every night. So

you just have to try to be ready every night … go out and be

aggressive and try to play your

game.”

DEAD(LINE)

SPIN

With the clock ticking down in the NBA

trade marketplace, Nash-related rumors will continue to

surface.

He and the Suns have been pretty effective

at convincing league watchdogs that everyone should exhale rather than

spend time anticipating a deal. But the usual suspects — and don’t

count out the potential for inspired speculation involving new teams —

will be linked to Nash as March 15 approaches.

The

Suns’ current three-game winning streak has halted some of the chatter

over the last couple of days, but back-to-back games with the Oklahoma

City Thunder and Dallas Mavericks could provoke some writers into

thinking Phoenix will more motivated to swap.

While

the NBA executives I know aren’t exactly salivating at the opportunity

to raid the Suns’ roster, one scribe from the consistently stellar site

Hoopsworld.com thinks Phoenix is swimming in trade chips. Here’s

the link.

Robin Lopez certainly

could draw interest from contending teams beatin’ the bushes for six

additional post fouls to have during playoff scrums, but the long-term

deals of Channing Frye (three years, $19-plus million after this

season), Josh Childresss (three years, $21 million) and Hakim Warrick

(two years, $9-plus million) make them less than attractive for most

potential suitors.

Those guys aren’t exactly priced

to fetch something in return that would convince the Suns to compromise

this summer’s cap flexibility. Players with expiring contracts (the

Suns’ catnip) are more valuable to their existing teams in that regard

than the Phoenix trio is talented.

But you never know

when some team might take a whiff of that good ol’ playoff aroma and

get jumpy.

SLIMMER

PICKIN’S

The latest edition of

draftexpress.com’s 2012 mock draft has the Suns sitting in the 11th spot

and selecting … Kentucky forward Terrence

Jones.

Jones, a 6-9, 240-pound sophomore, is a lefty

with similar skills (if a bit more advanced, especially off the bounce)

to those of Suns rookie Markieff Morris. His career at UK has been

marked by a frequently reported inconsistency of (let’s call it)

focus.

A December story on Jones in a Louisville

newspaper was introduced by a headline that included the words

‘inexplicable lapses.’

He seems like a dandy

choice.

The latest mock from NBADraft.net (from back

on Feb. 24) had the Suns picking ninth and choosing … Kentucky forward

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

OK, most Suns fans who

follow college hoops would celebrate that outcome. But, if he leaves

Kentucky after this season, MKG might have to whiff on some of his

pre-draft workouts to still be on the board at nine.