The Value of Jimmer

Sacramento cut loose former 1st round pick Jimmer Fredette last week, a move that follows the new ownership group’s desire to move away from the mistakes of the previous Maloof regime. This offseason the Kings declined to pick up the fourth year option on Fredette’s rookie deal, and he was reported to be available at the deadline for a 2nd round pick. After nothing came of that he was waived by the team and signed for the rest of the season by the Bulls.

Moving away from an era for the franchise that featured dwindling financial resources and payrolls, as well as several puzzling personnel moves (including the baffling deal that landed the Kings the pick that ultimately became Jimmer) is understandable. What’s less understandable is why Sacramento didn’t think they could use Fredette.

Some former 1st-rounders end up being worth less than the contracts they sign as rookies – someone like Evan Turner is debatebly worth less than he is making in the fourth year of his first contract. Fredette’s fourth year option was only set to pay him $3.1 million had it been picked up (per It’s not like the Kings are so awash in talent that they can just give it away, and that price is in line with what a decent bench scorer/shooter should be making.

It could have been argued last season that Fredette didn’t even meet the criteria for a bench scorer. He is a liability on defense, his shoot-first mentality left him with low assist rates through his first two years in the league, and his shooting wasn’t quite enough to make up for it.

This season has been a different story. While his minutes have been down, he has seen a rise in his assist rate (4.7 per 36 minutes) and is hitting 49% of his threes. If you can’t figure out how to use a guy that hits 49% of his live-action threes you may need to start looking for work outside of basketball.

Chicago may be a great place for him for the remainder of the season. He will have his back covered defensively by the likes of Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, both world-class defenders. Noah’s passing from the middle will also be helpful for Fredette, who has had some turnover problems when he tries to create for others. On top of that any player could benefit from a good coach; Tom Thibodeau is one of the best.

Jimmer has already seen a couple of late-game minutes in the Bulls’ win over New York on Sunday, but he should take on a larger role as the season winds down and Thibodeau starts testing out playoff rotations. Barring a breakdown of his shot, he will provide a strong floor-spacing presence to a team that could desperately use one.

Fredette will be a free agent in the offseason, and if his strong shooting continues he will probably price himself out of Chicago’s reach (although a Carlos Boozer amnesty may change that math a bit). He should be able to command a mid-level type deal, especially if he proves capable of playing some playoff minutes and doesn’t completely crap his pants on defense. A shooter this good is a very valuable commodity on the open market, as Kyle Korver showed. Jimmer isn’t in his league yet, but if he keeps improving his shot and his off-ball work on offense he can be.

That’s the direction that his career needs to take – that of a sweet-shooter who can distribute a little off the bench. If he can stretch defenses while playing with starters and run the point for bench-heavy lineups effectively he will have a place in the NBA for a long time. Guys in that role don’t have to be good defenders, they just need to stay close enough to their man that the defense doesn’t break just because they’re on the floor. He can get there, and that journey may have already started in Chicago.

Every year it seems that the buyout lot is fairly disappointing. Touted as potential key pieces that can provide the missing link for contenders in need of one last piece, more often they turn out to be exactly what you’d expect: a bunch of washed-up vets on underachieving teams hoping to ride the coattails of better players to a championship.

This season has been a bit different. Aside from Jimmer, we have seen former All-Star wings Danny Granger and Caron Butler sign with the Clippers and Thunder, respectively, and big man defensive ace Jason Collins (not technically a buyout) joining Brooklyn. In addition, point guard Beno Udrih was extricated from the awful Knicks and finds himself with a potential playoff squad in the Memphis Grizzlies.

Even Royce White’s name was thrown about, leaving open the possibility that he might get into an actual regular season NBA game at some point. All of this movement by rotation-caliber players has added some intrigue to the doldrums of the 2nd half and offers relief for a few decent veterans who might now be relevant to the playoff picture.