Square Peg Meets Round Hole: The Chicago Bulls’ dilemma with no-defense Jimmer Fredette

Sacramento Kings v Golden State WarriorsJimmer Fredette is exactly what the Chicago Bulls need right now, yet at the same time is exactly the type of player the Bulls usually look to avoid.

It is this inherent contradiction that makes Chicago’s signing of Fredette so uniquely interesting among last week’s February buyouts since Fredette is the exact antithesis of the Chicago Bulls player we’ve grown accustomed to seeing over the last couple of years.

Chicago as a team allows 100.6 points per 100 possessions, second in the league to Indiana. Fredette  had allowed 111 points per 100 possessions this season, and is a huge departure from the defense-first player the franchise has built its successful team around.

However, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said that Fredette has the one intangible that trumps everything. “He has the one skill where he can do as well as anyone in the league, and that’s shooting the three,” Thibodeau told SheridanHoops. “We’re going to build from there.”

Offensive skill has not been Chicago’s forte this season, which is why they signed Fredette on Sunday after the former national player of the year at BYU and Sacramento King was bought out. Check out the Bulls’ garish offensive statistics and league ranks.

Sorry for the play on words, but they are downright offensive.

Bulls OffenseNumberLeague Rank
3-point Field Goal %34.425
Points Per Shot1.1625
Field Goal %42.928
Offensive Rating101.428
Pace90.529
Points Per Game93.130
Made Field Goals34.530

Fredette is shooting 48.6 percent from three this season and 47.5 percent from the floor overall. He’s been above league average from midrange and beyond the arc. “Hopefully I can go out there and space the floor and score the basketball and give an outside presence for them,” Fredette told Sheridan Hoops.

“He really knows how to play as far as hitting shots,” Bulls veteran forward Mike Dunleavy said, regarding Fredette. He plays for other people, plays pick-and-roll basketball. That’s a premium in this league.”

Jimmer FredetteBut as much as the Bulls may need Fredette’s shooting ability, his defensive deficiencies could outweigh his offensive strengths. Chicago prides itself on playing stout defense, which starts with Thibodeau and the mindset and philosophies he instills in his players.

“We’re going to try and have him develop an understanding of what we’re trying to do defensively,” Thibodeau said.

Fredette’s career defensive rating is 114, and while he’s been on the floor throughout his career, the teams he’s played on have been outscored by 11 points per 100 possessions.

“I think in this league it’s very hard to guard guys one-on-one and everyone has to do every aspect of our defense together,” Thibodeau said, diplomatically. “Whether defensive transition, low post defense, pick-and-roll defense, catch-and-shoot defense, isolation defense and if you have everyone doing their job, then you have a chance. If you leave guys on an island in this league, you’re going to be in trouble. And that’s not just Jimmer, that’s anybody.”

Tom ThibadeauSo it seems like Thibodeau is committed to getting Fredette in line with the rest of the team defensively, and that could take a lot of time on the practice court and in the classroom. Fredette played just under three minutes of garbage time in Monday’s 96-80 loss to Brooklyn, and it seems like playing time will be sparse until he learns the Bulls’ defense.

Dunleavy just went through learning the Chicago defense this season after two years and a 108 defensive rating with Milwaukee, and he described how Fredette is going to be integrated defensively.

“A lot of that falls on the coaching staff and the playbook and explaining to him what the principles are. He’s a pretty smart guy, I’m sure he’ll figure that stuff out quickly,” Dunleavy said. “Then it’s just kinda helping him out with the little things here and there when you see it. He’s a smart guy, he’ll ask questions. I’ve been in his shoes not too long ago, just a few months ago. It’s a little bit of an adjustment, but for the most part you can figure it out.”

Fredette seemed enthusiastic about learning the defense and finally contributing to a winning team for the first time in his NBA career.

“Obviously it’s a great organization, a lot of history here and some great guys on this team who play hard and play together,” he said. “The biggest thing is to learn the terminology, and when you hear a coverage make sure you know what it is and get into it quickly. You gotta make those types of quick decisions. So I’m trying to learn that as quickly as I can and I think I can pick things up pretty quickly, so hopefully I’ll be able to do that. They have a great defensive scheme here and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

Fredette said that the bottom line is that the Bulls play together, work hard on defense and get stops. And until he learns how to get stronger defensively, he knows he probably won’t see much playing time despite his shooting prowess.

With a little more than six weeks until the playoffs start, Fredette has to improve on one side of the court so he can give Chicago the 3-point threat they so desperately need.

Shlomo Sprung is a national columnist for Sheridan Hoops who loves advanced statistics and the way they explain what happens on the court. He is also the web editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. A 2011 graduate of Columbia University’s Journalism School, he has previously worked for the New York Knicks, The Sporting News, Business Insider and other publications. His website is SprungOnSports.com. You should follow him on Twitter.

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  1. steppxxxz says

    its become a cliche to knock on Jimmer’s defense. His defense is actually better than Calderon or Nash or kevin martin…..but no, he’s not at all a good defender. But……he isnt the worst. He doesnt get lost like brandon jennings and he tries, unlike martin and nash, its just he often gets beat. But in chicago, he can work within a very good system that has made Augustin, an equally poor defender before coming to the Bulls, a passable cog in that system.

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