Guard Jimmer Fredette will join the third team of his NBA career after coming to terms with the New Orleans Pelicans late Thursday night.
It’s been three years since the 25-year-old was the 10th overall pick in the draft, and his two-and-half seasons with the Sacramento Kings and brief run with the Chicago Bulls this spring were both marred by inconsistent playing time.
But the rebuilding Pelicans could afford Fredette another shot to not only stay in the NBA, but make the impact that was expected of him after his four stellar college years for Brigham Young.
Signing for one year for the league minimum, ESPN reported that New Orleans would like Fredette to serve as the replacement for guard and sharpshooter Anthony Morrow, who joined the Oklahoma City Thunder earlier this week.
The Pelicans missed the playoffs for the fourth straight season with a 34-48 record in the Western Conference, but the team is determined to find the right mix of guards to space the floor to allow star center Anthony Davis to work inside. Last year New Orleans was sixth in the league in three-point percentage, knocking down 37.3 percent, but only attempted 16 long-range shots a game, the lowest amongst the top 10. The team was also 18 th in league with 99.7 points per game.
Though he’s been criticized for his defense, Fredette remains one of the best long-range shooters in the league and can certainly help New Orleans improve its middling offense. He’s shot 40.1 percent from deep in his career, and could be a deadly combination off the bench when paired with a healthy Ryan Anderson.
With a glut of young guards already on the roster, New Orleans could be a repeat of Sacramento but none can fire away like Fredette. With point guard Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon holding down the starting spots, Fredette will likely compete with Austin Rivers and second-round rookie draft pick Russ Smith for minutes if he makes the Pelicans roster.
Rivers showed some improvement in his second year with 7.7 points and 2.3 assists coming off the bench last season, and he shot 36.4 percent from three. But his poor 63.6 percent rate from the free throw line (compared to 85.7 percent for Fredette) makes Rivers a liability late in games.
A little under-sized to play shooting guard at 6-foot, and far more effective slashing to the basket, Smith is fighting for back-up point guard minutes. Coming out of Louisville and only a year removed from his national title run with the Cardinals, Smith is leading the NBA Summer League in assists with 7.3 per game.
At this point New Orleans could be envisioning Fredette and Smith as the first two guards off the bench, capable of providing instant offense as well as rest for Holiday and Gordon.
Gordon’s status with the team could change as well. He’s missed 115 games since New Orleans acquired him from the Los Angeles Clippers three years ago, and Gordon asked the Pelicans (then the Hornets) not to match the four-year, $58.3 million restricted offer sheet he signed with Phoenix in 2012.
New Orleans matched it and ever since Gordon’s been linked to trade speculation, which could continue into next season. Gordon holds a $15.5 million player option for the 2015-16 season, but might opt-out of the deal to test free agency.
That decision is well down the road, but Fredette should have an opportunity to compete for regular playing time for a squad hoping to compete in the loaded West.