Fredette puts Jazz in tough spot for draft

SALT LAKE CITY — Jimmer Fredette has his own reality show, a song that's amassed nearly a million YouTube views and a legion of followers.

He also has a legion of detractors, making him possibly the most polarizing player in this year's NBA draft.

Caught in the middle are the Utah Jazz, who with two first-round picks very well may be in position to pull the trigger at No. 12 and draft the BYU shooter turned national sensation.

The question is should they and will they?

"I don't envy Kevin O'Connor on this one," Steve Kerr, a former NBA player and Phoenix Suns executive, said of the Jazz general manager. "If they don't take him and he blows up and is really good, that's a problem. Now they're the team that screwed up and didn't take Jimmer when he was right in their backyard.

"If (O'Connor) does take him and Jimmer doesn't pan out, then it's the opposite. You have to follow your gut. If you like him, take him. Either way it's a lot of pressure."

O'Connor gets to make the final decision Thursday on draft night. It won't be without input from Walt Perrin, the team's vice president of player personnel.

Perrin knows what it's like to draft a hometown hero.

He was director of scouting with the Detroit Pistons in 2000 when they held the No. 14 pick. They used it on a guy who grew up in Flint, Mich., and starred at Michigan State, leading the Spartans to the NCAA championship just a few months earlier.

But Mateen Cleaves would hardly become the all-everything player that LeBron James was in Cleveland and Derrick Rose is in Chicago.

Cleaves lasted one year in Detroit, averaging 5.4 points and 2.7 assists, before bouncing around and out of the league.

"It didn't work out that well," Perrin said. "There was not that pressure with the team in Detroit as there is right now with Jimmer."

If the Jazz go big with the No. 3 pick, a guard figures to be a top priority with the No. 12 pick.

The guards most often mentioned for picks 10 to 15 are Fredette, Colorado sophomore Alec Burks and Washington State junior Klay Thompson.

Fredette's squeaky-clean image gives him an advantage over Thompson, who has a black mark on his resume following a March incident in which he was cited for marijuana possession and suspended for Washington State's regular-season finale.

Burks could be the perfect fit for the Jazz if they want an aggressive scorer with great court vision.

Neither Burks nor Thompson, both of whom worked out for the Jazz on Monday, put up the kind of numbers Fredette did in leading the NCAA in scoring (28.9) and earning national player of the year honors.

As for marketing, Fredette has plenty of appeal.

"Short-term, Jimmer no doubt would sell some tickets and create excitement and intrigue in Utah," said Jeff Robbins, president of the Utah Sports Commission. "But when the day is done, his long-term impact will be based on performance, just like with any business, and whether or not he helps his team win."

Jazz President Randy Rigby said Fredette clearly has impressed the community.

On the court are where the concerns are — with Fredette's defense, his athleticism and ability to play the point.

Player-turned-analyst Charles Barkley said size hurts Fredette as he can't match up with most shooting guards at 6-foot-2.

"The big question is (whether) they are going to try to make him into a point or bring him out to add some instant offense," said Barkley, a Fredette fan.

Ryan Blake, who helps scout players for NBA teams, also is a fan. He said playing with a bull's eye on his back for so long and in so many important games helped Fredette, as did his workouts.

"This game is 75 percent mental and he knows how to do it," Blake said. "Look at (Jason) Kidd and (Steve) Nash. Their IQs are off the charts and their fundamentals with the ball are so good they have the ability to continue to play into their years. They never had great speed, jumping ability or explosiveness, but they do it by playing basketball and not trying to go over or through people."

Still, Fredette is expected to go as high as No. 7 or as low as No. 20.

The Jazz aren't about to tip their hand but gave Fredette credit for his accomplishments.

"He showed us the ability we always have seen in him — to knock down shots," Perrin said. "He's a good passer and I think he showed us an ability to initially play defense.... We've just got to see if he can sustain that in a 24-second time frame and how he can be incorporated into our defense with our teammates if we pick him."

And what of skeptics who say Fredette won't be a starter?

"I don't know how many guys in the draft are starters right now," Perrin said. "Can they eventually be? It depends how hard they work, the team makeup and how they get along.... Yes, he's not a starter right now, but can he start in two years or four-five years down the road? That's the unknown."