As the debate rages whether the Jazz should draft Jimmer Fredette, the BYU point guard has joined scarce company around here.
He is one of only three basketball players connected with this state over the past 20 years to be worthy of â¦ The Game. His own Game. The Jimmer Fredette Game. The other two icons were Karl Malone and Carlos Boozer.
Qualifying for such status is a rare mixed bag. You have to be good, better than almost anyone else, notable enough to make people care and care deeply, but you also have to pull an anchor alongside. You have to have a to and a fro, a fric and a frac, a point and a counterpoint, an upside and a downside. You have to inspire love and hate.
John Stockton didn't pass muster. He had the former, not the latter. Greg Ostertag had the back end covered, but not the front. Andrei Kirilenko made a good run at it, but only because he was paid nearly $250,000 a game when he should have gotten about a buck-fifty.
Bottom line, controversy has to surround unusual talent like stink on a rotting carcass.
Malone was the bellwether, the original.
Here's how the Karl Malone Game worked:
The dealer entered a crowded room of players at a party, at the office, at the grocery market, at a scrapbooking convention and simply spoke the name â¦ Karl Malone. Then, he sat back and watched the reaction. It was always â¦ vibrant.
Same thing with Boozer: Just say the name and observe the fun, the passion, the great divide, the steep approval and the deep disapproval. Sometimes it was beyond belief that partisans on either side were talking about the same man.
Now comes Jimmer, against the backdrop of the draft, and the Jazz's two picks in the top 12. And those selections are tethered as they pertain to the wisdom of taking Fredette at 12, if he's available.
Some Jazz fans want Jimmer in the worst way. Many of them also happen to be BYU fans. But the correlation there isn't automatic. There are maniacal Cougar fans out there, fans who adored Fredette as a collegian, who are not convinced that 1) his talents/liabilities will show well in the NBA, and 2) his skills are a good match with the Jazz.
Just look at the scattered opinions and projections of those who make a living by scouting and judging basketball talent, and those who make a living guessing how those pros feel about him. There is no consensus among them. Fredette is the draft's most volatile prospect. Some prognosticators put him at seven, and others have him at 20.
Some say he is too slow to defend NBA point guards, that he might struggle to get his shot off, that he lacks point-guard skills, that he would be fortunate to be a starter, let alone a star. Others whisper that he could mirror Steve Nash or Mark Price, each of whom was doubted prior to their drafts, that his range will be as vast in the NBA as it was in college, that he's smart and tough-minded and supremely confident, that, without shoes on, he's just one inch shorter than Deron Williams, and that teams that pass on Fredette will eventually rue the day.
Jazz fans also seem to fall into disparate camps.
Some love the idea of Kevin O'Connor taking Jimmer. Others would roundly boo the pick. (When I recently asked O'Connor his thoughts, he declined to comment, naturally.)
Hence, the Jimmer Fredette Game.
After watching and covering Fredette in so many outings at BYU, and noting an evolving game, and an evolving personal opinion regarding his prospects as a pro, I now believe the Jazz would be wise to take him at No. 12, if he's still on the board, and if they get a bigger man at No. 3. There's a strong chance that a bigger man will be available to them with their initial pick, creating a shot at Fredette with the second.
Some say the Jazz selecting Jimmer would put too much pressure on him to perform up to lofty expectations or on them to give him enough minutes to please certain segments of the home crowd. I disagree. Fredette and the Jazz aren't weak enough to bow to that crap.
Some say the Jazz would not allow Jimmer to dominate the ball at the offensive end and that would diminish his value and limit his effectiveness. Nonsense. No NBA team is going to allow Fredette to come in and dominate the ball the way he did at BYU, where scoring options were always limited. Wherever Jimmer ends up, there will be assorted other scorers, making him that much more effective picking his spots. He played the way he did at BYU because that's what coaches there wanted him to do. He can adjust.
One of the Jazz's desperate needs is for outside shooting, opening up their inside game. Fredette can provide that, but also add another scoring threat who can move and take a defender off the dribble. He put up some forced shots in college, often against a defense designed to stop him. He wouldn't have to take those shots, or force anything, with the Jazz.
Can he play defense? It's one of the great questions/mysteries in general in the NBA: If a player is quick and strong and athletic enough to get his shots at one end, why wouldn't he be quick enough to D-up at the other? Fredette's defense will never be a strength, but there are numerous players like that who have had terrific NBA careers.
The Jimmer Fredette Game?
This player says take him.
GORDON MONSON hosts "The Gordon Monson Show" weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 104.7 FM/1280 AM The Zone.
NBA Draft First round
11. Golden St.
17. New York
24. Okla. City
27. New Jersey
29. San Antonio
2011 NBA Draft
P Thursday, June 23At the Prudential Center, Newark, N.J.
TV • ESPN, 5 p.m.