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Jimmer Fredette Gets Ideal Second Swing In NBA With Bulls

With the Sacramento Kings buying out Jimmer Fredette’s contract, the Chicago Bulls took a flyer on the third-year guard out of BYU. After a disappointing start to his professional career, it’s still premature to write him off from becoming a productive NBA player. This change of scenery was needed and Fredette now has a chance to prove that he belongs in the NBA.

Fredette was an absolute scoring machine coming out of BYU. In his senior season, he was a consensus National Player of the Year after he averaged 28.9 points per game on 45 percent shooting and led BYU to a 32-5 record along with a Sweet 16 appearance. He broke the Mountain West record for points in a career and currently ranks 34th on the Division I all-time career scoring list. 

As the 10th overall pick in 2011 ahead of Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard and Iman Shumpert, the 6-foot-2 guard faced some lofty expectations in his rookie season. He struggled early on since his knock-down jumper that was in range after crossing half-court in college was no longer consistent. Fredette shot only 36 percent from three and averaged 7.6 points per game in 18.6 minutes of action. His following year was better, as he averaged 7.2 points in 14 minutes on 42 percent shooting from deep, but he didn’t seem to be in Sacramento’s long-term plans.

The Kings drafted guards Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum earlier this season and Fredette was limited to 11.3 minutes per game. In his limited time, however, Fredette has shown glimpses of becoming the type of player some had expected.

Fredette is averaging 5.9 points per game in his reduced action while shooting 48 percent from the field and 49 percent from three. His 16.8 Player Efficiency Rating ranks 20th among point guards this season, while his 56.6 percent effective field goal percentage ranks fifth.

Although this could be a very good move for both sides, Fredette should not be expected to suddenly begin to justify his lottery standing. He isn’t a good defender and struggles keeping quicker point guards in front. In addition, it’s still unknown whether he can play the point guard position or if he may only be successful off the ball. But with Tom Thibodeau running the show, Fredette’s offensive game gives him potential as a key bench player at either guard spot.

“The more shooting you have, the more it opens up the floor,” Thibodeau told Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune. “We want to open things up to attack off the dribble, with our cuts, things of that nature. We feel that is an area of need.”

Chicago is scoring just 101.3 points per 100 possession (28th in NBA) and shooting 34 percent from three as a team. But with the second best scoring defense in the NBA, Chicago is fourth in the Eastern Conference standings and is on track to have homecourt advantage in the first round.

“I’ve seen that he’s got talent,” Taj Gibson told Marc Stein of ESPN. “It’s just that the team he was on, he never really got a chance to do much because they’ve got the characters on that team where they don’t seem too serious, you know what I’m saying? Playing on strict, good teams kind of brings the best out of a player.”

As Fredette dons a new uniform, it will be interesting to see if Thibodeau and the Bulls can find a way to utilize him within their system. Talent is only visible through opportunity; and Fredette could seize his opportunity very soon.

The Western Conference At The Deadline

When the clock hit 3 PM EST on Thursday, basketball fans around the globe groaned as another NBA trade deadline passed without the epic blockbusters that fill the RealGM Forums. Although the deadline lacked a true blockbuster, the trades that were made (and the ones that were left on the table) will undoubtedly shift the landscape of the Western Conference playoff picture and possibly the team that will be facing the Miami Heat or Indiana Pacers in the NBA Finals (It’s a lock, nobody is seriously questioning it).

The four most notable trades in the West came from the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers.

The Warriors, who picked up Steve Blake from the Los Angeles Lakers, will look for him to provide the steady hand off the bench that they have been pursuing since Jarrett Jack left in the offseason. Blake’s addition isn’t going to drastically improve the team, but he is able to give the team quality backup point guard minutes behind Stephen Curry, given Jordan Crawford’s inability to play without Brad Stevens as his coach.

The Rockets moved little used backup point guard, Aaron Brooks, to the Denver Nuggets for Jordan Hamilton. After refusing to lower their insane asking price on Omer Asik, the Rockets decided to fill their lack of a stretch four with Hamilton. Despite Hamilton blatantly not being a power forward or an elite shooter (39 percent from the field and 35 percent from 3), the Rockets apparently believe he can become one when freed up as Dwight Howard draws attention in the post. The more important aspect to this trade is that it likely allows the Rockets to call-up D-League star, Isaiah Canaan.

The Spurs traded little used point guard Nando de Colo for Austin Daye. In one of the day’s most intriguing moves, the Spurs took on another reclamation project in the form of a 6’11 shooter who was once a top prospect coming out of high school. While Daye has struggled to earn minutes outside of his second season in the NBA (when he shot 40 percent from 3), he has tremendous length, can guard multiple positions, and San Antonio has shown interest in him. If that isn’t a sign of someone that will be playing meaningful playoff minutes in May, I am not sure what is.

The last deals of any consequence in the West were by the Clippers. They traded both Antawn Jamison and BJ Mullens for the rights to a Turkish player that probably is unaware he was traded, and a conditional second round draft pick that will likely never happen. These deals, while not interesting beyond the salary implications for the Clippers, do allow open roster spots on the team for buyout candidates. Look for Glen “Big Baby” Davis to join his old coach, Doc Rivers.

While each team above made a move – albeit small – at the trade deadline, the other five teams in contention, the Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies all stood pat.

Although several teams are in desperate need of a big man (OKC, PDX, PHX), no one budged on Philly’s offer of two second round draft picks for Spencer Hawes.

Portland, who is without a second round draft pick until 2019, had a tremendous need for Hawes with Joel Freeland out for two months and LaMarcus Aldridge banged up.

The Thunder flirted with a deal for Knicks embattled shooting guard, Iman Shumpert, but backed off at the last moment.

As for the remaining needs, the slew of veterans that will likely be bought out this upcoming week will have to suffice. Fortunately for these teams, Glen Davis, Caron Butler, Danny Granger, Jason Terry, Emeka Okafor, Chris Kaman, Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva and Antawn Jamison are all buyout candidates.

Many NBA teams believe it is better to trade during the offseason so that players can get familiar with a system and their teammates, while others utilize the short second half of the season as a tryout for recently acquired players to see if they’re long-term fits. It appears that teams trading in the offseason are better off. For any fan grumbling over their team not making a blockbuster yesterday, here’s a stat you need to know: one; as in the number of Championship teams during the last 25 years to trade for a starter at the trade deadline (Rasheed Wallace to the Pistons in 2004). So while fans of the Rockets clamored for Rajon Rondo and Warriors' fans hoped for Kevin Love, just know that the odds of you winning the title with those guys was slim to none.

Happy Trade Deadline everyone! Only 124 more days until the NBA Draft!

DeMarcus Cousins, Kings Moving In Right Direction

Immature, childish, troublemaker, thug, and hothead, DeMarcus Cousins has heard it all. The negative backlash is nothing new to Cousins. Being misunderstood is something Cousins has dealt with his entire life.

“A lot of my situations get treated unfairly just because of my name and my reputation. Like the Sean Elliott situation. That was so overblown. It went from me asking why do you feel this way about me to I threatened him. None of it was ever said but none of that mattered because it was me,” Cousins told Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee, “So I get suspended and told you can’t talk to a broadcaster. I can’t talk to a broadcaster? It became ‘DeMarcus approached a broadcaster, of course it was hostile.’ That’s just something I’ve got to roll with.”

After Cousins' lone season at Kentucky with John Wall, he was a projected top-five pick headed into the 2010 NBA draft. In terms of talent, many argued that Cousins had the most skills of the entire draft class, yet questions remained about his character. Cousins dropped to the fifth overall selection taken by the Sacramento Kings, behind Wall, Evan Turner, Derrick Favors and Wesley Johnson.

Listed at 6’11” and weighing 270, Cousins is a walking mismatch when he steps on the court. His wingspan of 7’6” creates headaches for opponents and often commands double and triple teams.

Watching Cousins play, it is easy to see the immense talent he possesses. Offensive skills that most big men only dream of having, Cousins combines his soft hands with his incredible nimble footwork to score at ease around the paint. He leads the NBA in And 1’s at 46 so far this season per Synergy Sports. Except for the dominant brute force of Shaquille O’Neal, Cousins' offensive moves are reminiscent of when Shaq dominated the interior during his heyday.

Prior to this season, O’Neal bought a stake in the Kings franchise and he sees a very bright future for young Cousins. He also attributes Cousins to one of the main reasons to why he invested in the team.

“He can play, when he shows up he’s one of the most talented players in the game,” O’Neal told Kings play-by-play broadcaster Grant Napear. “So I told him, ‘you’re going to always have to show up, you lead they follow.’”

After signing a four-year, $62 million extension in the offseason, Cousins has taken a huge step forward under the tutelage of first-year head coach Michael Malone. Cousins is averaging a career high 22.5 points and 11.7 rebounds per game. Cousins has taken the necessary steps forward to assert himself as the Kings' most important asset.

Since Cousins' rookie year in 10-11, we have seen his PER rise from a mediocre 14.62 to an elite 26.14, which ranks sixth in the NBA. It is no mistake he has been improving as he gains more experience on the floor. Malone has been adamant on increasing Cousins' usage, especially when the Kings are in their halfcourt offense. Per Synergy Sports, when the Kings are in their halfcourt set, Cousins gets the ball to post-up 31.5 percent of the time.

The Kings are already on their third coach during the tenure of Cousins.. Neither Paul Westphal nor Keith Smart could control Cousins' antics that have often led to suspensions and fines for the big man. During Smart’s tenure, he went as far as inviting Cousins over for dinner many times in hopes to better understand the young star.

With Cousins' breakout season, there have been instances where his immaturity still gets the better of him. In a narrow defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers earlier in the year, Cousins made sure Isaiah Thomas did not shake Chris Paul’s hand as they walked off the court (video here). Cousins also created an unnecessary altercation with Mike Dunleavy Jr., which lead to his ejection.

“He’s a clown, and he’s scared,” Cousins said following the game. “I wouldn’t even waste my time on him if I ever saw him outside of the gym. He’s a clown.”

This season the Kings have been going through major changes with a new coach, new personnel on the roster and a new ownership group. The addition of Rudy Gay has added another dimension to the Kings' offense that they have solely missed from the perimeter. Plus, Isaiah Thomas has been a revelation at the point guard position after Greivis Vasquez was traded away. With more time playing together and the continuing growth of rookie swingman Ben McLemore, the Kings have a legitimate chance to fight for a playoff spot in the highly competitive Western Conference next season.

Although the Kings' current lackluster record does not help Boogie’s case as being an elite player, there is enough evidence and development in his maturity to project him as becoming one of the best big mans that the NBA can endorse for the next decade. Cousins is still second in the NBA in technicals, but he has made progress in that area.

“I know I’ve done bad things,” Cousins told Jonathan Abrams of Grantland. “But I’ve done just as much good as I have done bad. And it’s not even necessarily bad. I would say they’re growing pains.”

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