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Steve Luhm: Fredette has legitimate shot to find niche in Chicago

Published March 8, 2014 4:17 pm

NBA • On the right team — and this might be it — his shooting skills would be showcased.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Jimmer Fredette has landed in Chicago, where he's getting his next chance to prove he belongs in the NBA, not the Spanish League.

Fredette finished the most unremarkable stay in Sacramento since Arnold Schwarzenegger's two terms as governor of California when the Kings bought out his contract on Feb. 27.

Four days later, Fredette signed with Chicago, an organization that should provide the former BYU star everything the Kings did not.

Stable ownership.

Proven management.

An established coach.

Talented and professional teammates.

The Bulls, it seems, give Fredette the necessary off-the-court tools that he has lacked so far while trying to carve out a niche in the NBA.

Now it's up to him.

"He's got a skill that's as good as anyone," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau told ESPNChicago.com. "He can shoot the ball [and] we need shooting. But he's coming in late, so we'll see how it unfolds."

I've always thought Fredette could play in the NBA, provided he found the right situation.

He's not a great ballhandler or defender and he can be overmatched physically in many individual matchups. But he makes 40 percent of his 3-point shots, including 49 percent this season.

There's a place in today's NBA for shooting specialists, which is one reason the defensive rules were changed a few years ago. The idea was to add flow to the game and create places in the league for players like Fredette.

Look at it this way: What's the difference between Steve Kerr and Fredette, except for Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson?

Same skills. Nearly the same size. Same opportunity, finally, to have a productive career in the NBA.

The fact the Bulls signed him adds intrigue to Fredette's situation.

Thibodeau has done another masterful job in Chicago this season. All-Star Derrick Rose has now played 10 games in the last two years because of knee problems and Luol Deng was traded to Cleveland in February.

Still, the Bulls could finish as high as third in the Eastern Conference, which might translate into the second round of the playoffs.

Considering everything, it would be an amazing accomplishment.

Going forward, Chicago still hopes to build around Rose, a former MVP who can be the centerpiece of a championship team, when he's healthy.

Along with Rose, Joakim Noah is coming back. So are Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler.

The Bulls are also expected to lure highly regarded center Nikola Mirotic from Europe and amnesty veteran forward Carlos Boozer, who is due to make $16.8 million next year.

Dumping Boozer will give Chicago a chance to be a major player in the free-agent market, with Noah and Rose already starting a lobby for management to sign Carmelo Anthony.

That probably won't happen. Anthony would have to take a pay cut to leave the Knicks and he has always been a money-talks guy. But the Bulls are one of the few franchises with enough appeal to sign somebody like him.

The bottom line?

Chicago might not be chasing Miami and Indiana for Eastern Conference supremacy much longer.

Those teams are win-now.

The Bulls are better positioned for the immediate future — especially if Rose returns — and Fredette has a chance to ride along.

The basketball is in his court. —

Three-pointers

Rookie challenge • Philadelphia's Michael Carter-Williams remains the likely Rookie of the Year, despite the 76ers' gruesome record and a dip in his play recently. Asked about the 6-foot-6, 185-pound Carter-Williams recently, coach Brett Brown said, "He's better than I thought. The challenge ahead will be to get him NBA tough. Eighty-two games. Battle-tested. He's used to playing 40 games [in college] and now he's navigating through a pick-and-roll league. He's going through 40 or 50 pick-and-rolls a game. Can he deal with that? Can he learn how to navigate through it? That's his challenge and my challenge. ... But I see way more good than bad. He's surprised us all."

The big leagues • Congratulations to Lone Peak High School product Justin Hamilton. After averaging 19.3 points and 9.2 rebounds for Sioux Falls in the D-League, the 7-foot center signed a 10-day contract with Charlotte this week. Hamilton helped Lone Peak win the 5A state championship in 2008. He attended Iowa State and LSU. Hamilton was drafted by Philadelphia in 2012 and traded to Miami. He played overseas last year but was waived by the Heat in training camp. Still, coach Erik Spoelstra spoke highly of Hamilton when Miami came to Utah in January: "He's a skilled player. He's big. He's physical. He's smart. Those things tend to play well in the right system."

Draft decisions • The Jazz own two picks in the first round of the upcoming NBA draft — their own and one acquired from Golden State. It's far too soon to know who tops the wish-list of Dennis Lindsey, but Utah's general manager admits to a Jerry Sloan-like philosophy when it comes to evaluating young players. "I think Jerry and I are the same as far as, if you get good kids who are raised the right way, those are always the players who get better," he said. "... Look, we'll make mistakes. We may get a player that doesn't work out. But at the end of the day, what's worked well here has a lot to do with character — mixing in, of course, the appropriate level of NBA talent."