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NBA PM: Can Jimmer Fredette Save Career?

After three disappointing seasons, can soon-to-be free agent Jimmer Fredette salvage his career? … Understanding the Raymond Felton situation

Alex Kennedy

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The Sacramento Kings are nearing a buyout with Jimmer Fredette, who was making $2,439,840 this season in the last year of his contract. If he clears waivers, he’ll be an unrestricted free agent.

It wasn’t long ago that Fredette was an NCAA superstar and household name. During his senior year at BYU, Fredette’s games were must-watch TV as he averaged 28.9 points while shooting 45 percent from the field and 40 percent three-point range.

He returned BYU to relevancy and, in the process, became a star. Before long, he was being mentioned in rap tracks by Lil Wayne (“I got a chopper and a trimmer shootin’ like Jimmer”) and spawning tribute songs all about him (“Teach Me How to Jimmer” has received millions of views on YouTube). Many people purchased his college jersey and “Jimmered” entered the national lexicon, when Fredette would light up a team or when a shooter in a random park would knock down a shot in his defender’s eye.

In the 2011 NBA Draft, Fredette was selected 10th overall and traded to the Kings. At the time, Sacramento’s decision-makers were split on whether to draft Fredette. Most people in the front office felt that he was overrated and that his game wouldn’t translate to the NBA, which was hard to disagree with since he isn’t very athletic, struggles mightily on the defensive end and needed the ball in his hands to thrive at BYU. However, at the time, the Kings were desperate to sell tickets and excite fans, so they selected Fredette. The Kings got what they wanted, parading Jimmer out in front of fans as much as possible. He made appearances across the city, from the Kings’ facility to packed shopping malls.

However, once Fredette took the court, there wasn’t much for the fans to be excited about.

Fredette’s first three seasons in the NBA have been disappointing, to say the least. He has started just seven games. As a rookie, he averaged 7.6 points, 1.8 assists, 1.2 rebounds and .5 steals, all of which remain career-highs since his stats have dropped each year he has been in the league. This year, prior to the buyout, Fredette was averaging 5.9 points, 1.5 assists, 1.1 rebounds and .3 steals through 41 games.

Fredette played for three different head coaches – Paul Westphal, Keith Smart and Mike Malone – in three seasons and he wasn’t able to contribute in a significant way under any of them.

With that said, executives believe that Fredette still has plenty of time to prove himself. After all, he just turned 25 years old. Even if he doesn’t become a starter in the NBA, it’s possible that he could carve out a sixth man role that allows him to create instant offense off of the bench. Also, it is worth noting that this is actually Fredette’s best season by per 36 standards, averaging 18.7 points, 4.7 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.1 steals when adjusted. One executive commented that Fredette has played relatively well when given playing time and said that he could see him becoming more of an impact player if given the minutes.

It also helps that Fredette has shown flashes throughout his career, most recently two weeks ago against the New York Knicks when he had 24 points in 27 minutes on 9-14 shooting from the field and 6-8 from three-point range. It was a career-high for Fredette and it came at a good time.

So why are the Kings buying him out now? Well, the team tried to trade him before the Feb. 20 deadline, engaging in serious talks with the Denver Nuggets and preliminary talks with others. But at the end of the day, the Kings weren’t able to land an asset for Fredette. Had the Kings held onto Fredette for the remainder of the year, he’d likely walk as an unrestricted free agent this summer. Rather than forcing him to wait out the rest of the season in a limited role on a losing team, the Kings decided to let him go now so that he has an opportunity to prove himself before hitting the market. Agents really appreciate – and remember – that kind of gesture and it only helps create a player-friendly reputation for the front office.

This also allows the Kings to add a player with that open roster spot. They can sign a free agent or they can audition a number of D-League players to try to find someone who can help them down the road. It’s not uncommon for a team to offer a D-League player a guaranteed contract for the remainder of the season, along with one or two team option years. Both sides are happy because the player gets a chance to show what he can do in the NBA and the team gets to lock up the player’s rights for multiple years.

It remains to be seen where Fredette will land next. The Nuggets may have some interest after trying to trade for him, and the New York Knicks have been mentioned as a potential landing spot since they have two open roster spots. The Utah Jazz are an obvious fit since he was a fan favorite at BYU and he would fit in with the Jazz’s young team (while generating some fan interest). However, Utah has 15 players on their roster and reportedly haven’t discussed bringing in Fredette.

Some team will sign the guard, and he’ll have a shot at salvaging his career. He may never be as productive and famous as he was during his final season at BYU, but it’s still possible for him to have long career in the NBA if he works hard and finds his niche.

Understanding What Happened to Raymond Felton

There are a lot of questions surrounding the future of New York Knicks guard Raymond Felton in light of his recent legal trouble. Michael McCann, a Massachusetts attorney and the founding director of the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, mapped out the situation for Sports Illustrated and addressed some of the key concepts.

What did Felton do wrong?

“Raymond Felton has been charged with three offenses under New York law for unlawful possession of a firearm. The most serious is second-degree criminal possession, a felony charge that carries a minimum sentence of three and a half years behind bars. Felton’s charges stem from his estranged wife, Ariane Raymondo-Felton, reportedly handing over a Belgian pistol (FNH 5.7×28 mm) to New York police and claiming it belonged to Felton. Raymondo-Felton’s decision to turn over the gun appears connected to a heated argument Felton may have had with his girlfriend, whose name has not been released by law enforcement.”

Will he go to jail?

“Unfortunately for Felton, New York is probably the worst state to be charged with illegal possession of guns. Prosecutors do not need to establish how Felton obtained the gun or why he possessed the gun, only that he possessed the gun. Felton has thus been charged with a strict liability offense: if he possessed the gun, he’s guilty and a judge would sentence him to at least three and a half years behind bars. Felton could seek a plea deal in hopes of a lesser sentence. Former NFL star Plaxico Burress, who faced similar charges in New York, ultimately pleaded guilty to lesser charges, but it was far from a legal win for Burress. Burress spent nearly two years behind bars.”

Can he say the gun wasn’t his?

“A legal defense that could work for Felton is that he did not possess this gun. In order to gain a conviction, prosecutors must establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Felton actually possessed the Belgian pistol. This point reveals a crucial difference in evidence between the incidents involving Burress and Felton. While Burress had no logical way of arguing he didn’t possess a gun used to shoot himself, Felton’s connections to the Belgian pistol are less obvious. As of now, the only reported link between Felton and this pistol is that his estranged wife handed the pistol over to law enforcement and claimed it belonged to Felton. If that remains the only link, watch for Felton to portray his estranged wife as unreliable and, given their pending divorced, biased. He may raise similar themes about his alleged girlfriend if she testifies against him.”

Can he still play for the Knicks?

“An immediate challenge for Felton is whether he can travel with the Knicks and leave the state of New York while facing the charges. As part of the bail process, Felton will have to convince a judge that he is not a flight risk or a danger to the public, and that he needs to travel with the Knicks in order to fulfill his employment contract.

Of even greater concern to Felton is whether he will face an NBA suspension. … New commissioner Adam Silver will face his first major disciplinary decision with Felton. Like Stern, Silver is an attorney and he will likely scrutinize the charges and available evidence before making a decision. Silver will also rely on the counsel of Rick Buchanan, the league’s general counsel and executive vice president. Silver and Buchanan undoubtedly know that the league’s image is tarnished with fans, media and lawmakers when players are connected to guns. On the other hand, they do not want to punish a player who may ultimately be cleared of any wrongdoing. This is a crucial point for Felton as he considers his legal options: if he pleads guilty to any crime, the NBA would be clearly justified in suspending him.”

Can the Knicks void his contract?

“Felton’s greatest worry may be whether the Knicks will use these charges as grounds to void his contract. Felton’s contract calls for him to earn $3.6 million this season, $3.7 million next season and a player option for $4.0 million in 2015-16. Felton is averaging a career-low 10.3 points and his play has drawn much criticism this season, with the gun charges only further hurting his standing with Knicks officials. It stands to reason the Knicks may be interested in severing ties with their point guard all together.

The Knicks could try to terminate Felton’s contract under Clause 16 of the NBA’s Uniform Player Contract. In theory, this clause allows NBA teams to void a contract if a player, “fails, refuses, or neglects to conform his personal conduct to standards of good citizenship, good moral character (defined here to mean not engaging in acts of moral turpitude, whether or not such acts would constitute a crime), and good sportsmanship…” The Knicks would have to first place Felton on waivers. Assuming he clears waivers — a safe bet — the Knicks would then notify Felton that his contract has been voided. To be sure, the Knicks’ legal argument for terminating Felton’s contract would be strengthened if Felton is convicted or if he pleads guilty.

In reality, the Knicks would be inviting a legal fight if they tried to void Felton’s contract. Any attempt would be met with a grievance filed by the players’ association to a neutral arbitrator.”

Be sure to read the entire article on Sports Illustrated by clicking here.

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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NBA Saturday: Kuzma Is The Main Attraction In Los Angeles

Kyle Kuzma, not Lonzo Ball, is the rookie in L.A. that is turning heads around the NBA.

Dennis Chambers

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Out in Los Angeles, there is a dynamite rookie first-round pick lighting it up for the Lakers, invoking memories of the days when the purple and gold had homegrown stars.

That’s Kyle Kuzma. He was the 27th pick in the NBA Draft. Twenty-five picks after Lonzo Ball, the rookie that first sentence would have presumably been about had it been written three months ago.

Ball’s early season struggles are well-noted. He’s missing shots at an all-time bad clip for a rookie, his psyche seems a bit rattled, and he isn’t having the impact most Lakers fans would have hoped he would from the jump.

All of that has barely mattered, though, in large part to the show Kuzma has been putting on just 16 games into the 2017-18 season. In Friday night’s loss to the Phoenix Suns, Kuzma put up 30 points and 10 rebounds for the Lakers, the most by an NBA freshman so far this year. That performance was Kuzma’s sixth 20-point game of the young season, another rookie best. And to top it all off, Kuzma was the first rookie to reach the 30-point, 10-rebound plateau since none other than Magic Johnson, back in February of 1980.

Kuzma’s path to the NBA was much different than Johnson’s, though, along with his rookie counterpart Ball. Those two prospects were highly-touted “superstar potential” guys coming out of the college ranks. Kuzma? Well, he was a 21-year-old junior out of Utah who didn’t make the NCAA Tournament his last year and was a career 30 percent three-point shooter as an amateur.

The knocks on Kuzma began to change during the NBA Draft process and came to a head for the Lakers when long-time scout Bill Bertka raved about his potential.

“He got all wide-eyed,” Lakers director of scouting Jesse Buss told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. “And he said, ‘If this guy isn’t an NBA player, then I don’t know what the f— I’m looking at.'”

The Lakers took a chance on the 6-foot-9 forward who had a rare combination of a sweet shooting stroke to accompany his low-post moves that seemed to be reminiscent of players 20 years his senior.

Fast forward from draft night to the Las Vegas Summer League, and everyone could see with their own two eyes the type of player Los Angeles drafted. The numbers were startling: 21.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 1.1 steals, and 48 percent from beyond the arc out in Sin City for Kuzma, all capped off by a Summer League championship game MVP.

Summer League stats should be taken with a grain of salt, but what Kuzma did in July was proved he belonged.

Through the first month of Kuzma’s rookie campaign, when the games are actually counting for something, all he’s continued to do is prove that his exhibition numbers in Vegas were no fluke.

After his 30-point outburst, Kuzma now leads all rookies in total points scored (yet still second in scoring average), is fourth in rebounds per game, third in minutes, and third in field goal percentage.

By all accounts, Kuzma is outperforming just about every highly-touted prospect that was taken before him last June, and sans a Ben Simmons broken foot in September of 2016, he would be in line for the Rookie of the Year award if the season ended today.

Following Wednesday night’s loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, head coach Brett Brown had more than a few nice things to say about Kuzma.

“He’s a hell of a rookie,” Brown told NBC Philly’s Jessica Camerato. “That was a great pick by them.”

Brown went on to commend Kuzma for being “excellent” Wednesday night, when prior to his game Friday against the Suns, Kuzma set a career-high by scoring 24 points.

For all of the praise and the scoring numbers Kuzma is bringing to the Staples Center, his Lakers team sits at just 6-10 on the season, and has been on the wrong end of a number of close games so far this year.

While that’s good for second in the Pacific division right now, behind only the Golden State Warriors, it isn’t likely that type of success (or lack thereof) will get the Lakers to the playoffs. So, despite all of the numbers and attention, Kuzma isn’t fulfilling his rookie year the way he had hoped.

“It is cool, but I’m a winner,” Kuzma told Lakers Nation’s Serena Winters. “I like to win, stats don’t really matter to me. I just try to play hard and I want to win.”

Few projected the type of impact Kuzma would have this early on in his career, and even fewer would have assumed he’d be outperforming the Lakers’ prized draft pick in Ball. But surprising people with his game is nothing new to Kuzma.

From Flint, Michigan, to Utah, to Los Angeles, Kuzma has been turning heads of those that overlooked him the entire time.

With one month in the books as the Los Angeles Lakers’ most promising rookie, Kuzma has all the attention he could’ve asked for now.

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Kelly Olynyk Strengthens the HEAT Bench

David Yapkowitz speaks to Kelly Olynyk about his early showing in Miami.

David Yapkowitz

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The past few years, Kelly Olynyk carved out a nice role for himself as an important player off the Boston Celtics bench. He was a fan favorite at TD Garden, with his most memorable moment in Celtic green coming in last season’s playoffs against the Washington Wizards in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

With Boston pushed to the limit and finding themselves forced into a Game 7, Olynyk rose to the occasion and dropped a playoff career-high 26 points off the bench on 10-14 shooting from the field in a Celtics win. He scored 14 of those points in the fourth quarter to hold Washington off.

He was a free agent at the end of the season, and instead of coming back to the Celtics, he became a casualty of their roster turnover following Gordon Hayward’s decision to sign in Boston. Once he hit the open market he had no shortage of suitors, but he quickly agreed to a deal with the Miami HEAT, an easy decision for him.

“It’s awesome, they got a real good culture here,” Olynyk told Basketball Insiders. “The organization is great, the city is great, the staff from the top down they do a good job here.”

Olynyk was initially the HEAT’s starting power forward to begin the season. In their opening night game, a 116-109 loss to the Orlando Magic, he scored ten points, pulled down five rebounds, and dished out three assists.

The very next game, however, he found himself back in his familiar role as first big man off the bench. In that game, a win over the Indiana Pacers, Olynyk had an even stronger game with 13 points on 50 percent shooting from the field, including 60 percent from three-point range, eight rebounds, and four assists.

Throughout the first eight games of the season, Olynyk was thriving with his new team. During that stretch, he was averaging a career-high 11.4 points per game on a career-high 55 percent shooting from the field and 60. 8 percent from downtown.

“I’m just playing, I’m just playing basketball,” Olynyk told Basketball Insiders. “They’re kind of letting me just play. They kind of let us all just play. They put us in positions to succeed and just go out there and let out skills show.”

For a HEAT team that may not be as talented on paper as some of the other teams in the Eastern Conference, they definitely play hard and gritty and are a sum of their parts. Night in and night out, in each of their wins, they’ve done it off the contributions from each player in the rotation and Olynyk has been a big part of that. Through Nov. 16, the HEAT bench was seventh in the league in points per game with 36.6.

In a win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Nov. 5, Olynyk was part of a bench unit including James Johnson, Tyler Johnson, and Wayne Ellington that came into the game late in the first quarter. The score at that point was 18-14 in Miami’s favor. That unit closed the quarter on a 16-6 run to put the HEAT up double digits. After that game, head coach Erik Spoelstra recognized the strength of the HEAT bench.

“Our guys are very resilient, that’s the one thing you’ve got to give everybody in that locker room, they’re tough,” Spoelstra said. “This is all about everybody in that locker room contributing to put yourself in a position, the best chance to win. It’s not about first unit, second unit, third unit, we’re all in this together.”

In Boston, Olynyk was part of a similar group that won games off of team play and production from every guy that got in the game. They were also a tough, gritty team and Olynyk has recognized that same sort of fire in the HEAT locker room.

“It’s a group of hard-nosed guys that can really grind it out and play tough-nosed basketball,” Olynyk told Basketball Insiders. “We can go a lot of places. We just got to stick together and keep doing what we do. We can compete with anybody and we just got to bring it every single night.”

At 7-8, the HEAT currently sit outside the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference. Olynyk has seen a bit of a decrease in playing time, and likewise in production. He’s right at his career average in points per game with 9.5, but he’s still shooting career-highs from the field (54 percent) and from three-point range (47.4).

It’s still very early, though, and only one game separates the 11th place HEAT from the 8th place Magic. The HEAT are definitely tough enough to fight for a playoff spot, especially with Olynyk around helping to strengthen their bench.

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Defensive Player Of The Year Watch – 11/17/17

Spencer Davies updates the list of names to keep an eye on and who’s in contention for DPOY.

Spencer Davies

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We’re exactly one month into the season now, as the NBA standings have started to take shape headed into winter.

A couple of weeks ago, Basketball Insiders released its first Defensive Player of the Year Watch article to go in-depth on players that could compete for the prestigious award. Since then, there have been injuries keeping most of the household names out of the picture.

Guys like Rudy Gobert (knee) and Al-Farouq Aminu (ankle) have been or will be sidelined for weeks. Kawhi Leonard has yet to make his season debut recovering from a bothersome right quad.

While that isn’t the best news for fans and the league at the moment, it’s likely that those players will be just fine and return with the same impact they’ve always made. In the meantime, there are opportunities for others to throw their names in the hat as elite defenders. With new names and mainstays, here’s a look at six healthy candidates.

6) Joel Embiid

Trusting the Process in Philadelphia was worth the wait. As polished as the seven-footer is with the ball in his hands on offense, he might be even more dangerous as an interior defensive presence.

One of ten players in the NBA averaging at least a block and a steal per game, Embiid makes a world of a difference for in limiting opponents. Through 14 games, the Philadelphia 76ers are allowing just 96.4 points per 100 possessions with him playing. Furthering that, he’s the only one on the floor who dips the team’s defensive rating below 100 and has the second-highest Defensive Real Plus-Minus rating (3.03) in the NBA.

5) Kristaps Porzingis

Like Embiid, it’s been an incredible season for the one called The Unicorn. Before the season started, Porzingis stated it was a goal of his to accomplish three things—an All-Star game appearance, Most Improved Player, and Defensive Player of the Year.

So far, he’s on the right track. Outside of being the league’s third-highest scorer (28.9 points per game), the Latvian big man is hounding and deterring shot attempts nearly every time inside. According to SportVU data, Porzingis is allowing his opponents to only convert 35.1 percent of their attempts at the rim, which is the lowest by far among his peers seeing at least four tries per game. Oh, and when he’s off the floor, the Knicks have a 112.4 defensive rating, which is 9.3 more points per 100 possessions than with him on.

4) Nikola Jokic

At the beginning of the season, it looked like the same old story with the Denver Nuggets defense, but their intensity has stepped up on that end of the floor for the past couple of weeks. Playing next to new running mate Paul Millsap has taken some getting used to, but it seems like the two frontcourt partners have started to mesh well.

Though it might not have been the case a season ago, the Denver Nuggets are a net -12.4 per 100 possessions defensively without Jokic on the court as opposed to a team-best 100.1 defensive rating with him on. A huge knock on the Serbian sensation last year and before then was his inability to defend. He’s still got things to work on as a rim protector with his timing, but the progress is coming. He’s seventh in the league in total contested shots (168) and has been forcing turnovers like a madman. Averaging 1.6 steals per game, Jokic has recorded at least one takeaway in all but two games.

3) Draymond Green

In the first DPOY watch article, the Golden State Warriors had been better off defensively with Green sitting. That right there should tell you how much we can really put into data in small sample sizes. It’s changed dramatically since that point in time.

Without Green playing, the Golden State Warriors have a defensive rating of 105.4 as opposed to 98.4 on the same scale with him on the floor. His matchups are starting to grow weary of driving on him again, as he’s seen less than four attempts at the basket. Currently, in DRPM, he ranks eighth with a 2.60 rating.

2) Al Horford

The Boston Celtics are still the number one team in the NBA in defensive rating. Horford is still the straw that stirs the drink for Brad Stevens. If you didn’t see that watching that knockdown, drag-it-out game against the Warriors on Thursday, go back and watch it.

He has the highest net rating on the team among starters and is leading the team by altering shots and grabbing rebounds with aggressiveness we haven’t seen since he played for the Atlanta Hawks. Ranking fourth in Defensive Box Plus-Minus and in DRPM, Horford is continuing to make his presence felt.

1) DeMarcus Cousins

Dominance is the word to describe Cousins’ game. With a month-long absence of Gobert, he has a real chance to show fans and voters that his defensive side of him is no façade.

Next to his partner Anthony Davis, Boogie has kept up the physicality and technique of locking up assignments. The third and final member of this list averaging at least a block and steal per game, Cousins is at the top of the mountain in DRPM with a 3.13 rating.

The New Orleans Pelicans significantly benefit with him on the hardwood (102.3 DRTG) as opposed to him on the bench (112.7 DTRG). He’s one of six players in the league seeing more than six attempts at the rim, and he’s allowed the lowest success percentage among that group. He’s also contested 193 shots, which is the second-most in the NBA.

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