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NBA Draft Combine: Does Jimmer Have a 36" Vertical?

Byron on SportsCorrespondent IMay 13, 2011

NBA Draft Combine: Does Jimmer Have a 36" Vertical?

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    Jimmer can dunk a basketball, but how athletic is he?
    Jimmer can dunk a basketball, but how athletic is he?

    The NBA draft combine is coming up and a lot of us are interested in what will transpire there. Mock draft junkies soak up any piece of data they can get their hands on to try to outguess the scouts.

    Two players that many will be looking at closely are Jimmer Fredette and Kyrie Irving. There are a lot of questions about their athleticism and how it will affect them as NBA players.  

    I am choosing to use these players along with historical combine data to see what role athleticism might play in selection and what types of data impact selection the most.

    In a league that has the likes of Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose wreaking havoc on opposing defenses, it seemed like an interesting study.

    I will make heavy use of the data you can view for free at DraftExpress.com, so you can see everything and maybe find your own key performance predictors.

Questions About Kyrie Irving

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 20:  Kyrie Irving #1 of the Duke Blue Devils looks on while taking on the Michigan Wolverines during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 20, 2011 in Charlotte, North Caroli
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Kyrie Irving missed most of his only college season due to a toe injury. Apparently, you can get turf toe playing basketball.

    I doubt too many scouts are that concerned about him being “injury prone,” because there really does seem to be any history of this being a recurring ailment or chronic condition. 

    Irving is expected to be the first or second pick in the draft. It is very rare for point guards to be taken with the first pick in a draft. Chris Paul, who Irving is frequently compared to, only earned a fourth pick in the 2005 draft, while better pure athletes Allen Iverson, Derrick Rose, and John Wall were selected first in their respective draft classes.

    (Magic Johnson was selected first overall. A 6'9" point guard that can play every other position at an elite level is virtually impossible to pass on even if Larry Bird is your next option.)

    This is significant considering Iverson was in a draft with three other future Hall of Fame players, two other winners of the league MVP, and a lot of legitimate NBA talent. 

    That 1996 draft included: Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen, and Steve Nash—all of who will most likely be first ballot Hall of Famers. Other members of that draft were: Marcus Camby, Antoine Walker, Peja Stojacovic, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and Jermaine O’Neal.

    In a group loaded with talent, Iverson was too much to pass up. It was largely his freakish speed, quickness, explosiveness, and endurance that made this the case.

    The 2011 NBA Draft has been coined a "weak draft" by many pundits as a weak draft class and they were saying that BEFORE Harrison Barnes, Perry Jones, and Jared Sullinger decided to give college at least one more year.

    Is that the real reason Irving is projected to go so high?

    In my opinion, Irving looks like an excellent NBA ready talent who makes up for anything he lacks in athleticism with great court vision, confidence, poise, and pure shooting at the point guard position.

    He plays the game with a rare and terrific pace, that may be concealing some raw athleticism, but he is undoubtedly less of a pure athlete than any of the other guards be drafted first overall.

    Even Isiah Thomas was drafted second. To be selected first overall as a point guard is a very rare honor.

    Another oddity about Kyrie Irving is the fact that his teammate Nolan Smith may have been the best point guard in all of college basketball for most of the season, yet Nolan Smith is on many draft boards after the 25th pick. 

Questions About Jimmer Fredette

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    OKLAHOMA CITY - MARCH 18:  Jimmer Fredette #32 of the BYU Cougars drives for a shot attempt against Kenny Boynton #1 (R) of the Florida Gators during the first round of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Ford Center on March 18, 2010 in Oklahoma
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Fredette remains one of the most polarizing prospects in the draft, despite an excellent college career. A good showing at the combine could help him. He is more in the mold of a Mark Price or Stephen Curry and there are concerns about his defensive capability.

    In many ways, Fredette is treated in the opposite manner of Irving. Fredette has been durable and played in 139 college games. He showed improvement in each season and, unlike Irving, he was the sole reason his team even made the NCAA tournament.

    Yet, Fredette has been on mock draft boards as a late first round pick and few draft boards have him going higher than 12th in what is considered a weak draft class.

    One can reasonably ask: “How weak do the scouts really think this draft class is if the nation’s leading scorer and NCAA player of the year is having trouble earning a lottery selection?” It is almost unheard of even in a strong draft class.

    Perhaps Fredette’s last game in college is the cause. But, if Fredette in on the board after the 15th pick in the draft the scouts and general managers are implicitly stating that they feel this draft is not all that shallow.

    The BYU Cougars were defeated by Florida Gators. The game was settled in went to overtime. The Final score was BYU 74, FLA 83. It was the end of a great season for one team and one step closer to the Final Four for another.

    In that single game, Fredette tallied 32 points, two rebounds, five assists, and one steal on 11-29 shooting. For the first time in the tournament, his long range shooting was dreadful (3-15 from three-point range). One guy can only carry a team so far.

    BYU shot poorly as a team and it would be unfair to assign all of the blame to Fredette for the outcome of that particular game. He may have shot them out of the game, but no one on BYU was stepping up to shoot them into.

    There is plenty of blame to spread around and the offensive game plan was for Fredette to take a lot of shots and avoid defense anyway. That is, after all, how BYU got to the second round in the first place.

    The last game of his college career represents an outlier and that stat line is very unrevealing when assessing his skill. Are draft scouts so sour on his athletic ability that they are willing to write off his entire body of work?

    There are questions about his speed, lateral quickness, and explosiveness. Let’s take a look at the data and try to assess how important “raw athleticism” is at the PG position.

Who Said Jimmer Fredette Has a 36” Vertical Jump and What Does That Mean

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    HOUSTON - APRIL 03:  Jimmer Fredette of BYU receives the 2011 Naismith Trophy Presented by AT&T from David Christopher of AT&T during the NABC Guardians of the Game Awards Program on April 3, 2011 in Houston, Texas.  Joining them on stage are Eric Oberman
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Recently, it was reported that Fredette's  "Vertical Jump" measurement was 36 inches.  The source was BYU strength coach, Justin McLure.

    That is like asking Phillip Morris to supply congress the truth about smoking. The NBA combine is a valuable tool for debunking myths. They even measure the guys from head to toe to find out who had the height enhanced.

    The report did not clarify which type of vertical jump was measured. Was it the “No-Step Vertical” or the “One-Step Vertical” (Max Vertical)? 

    My guess is it was the latter of the two (“Max Vertical”) and until the combine performance confirms otherwise, it is a safest assumption. And that is about

     The next table illustrates why this is probably a good assumption. 

    Brandon Roy, Dwayne Wade, and O.J. Mayo are included on this and the subsequent tables because they tested as prospective in the Point Guards category.

    This make their results relevant, because several of the guards in this years draft (Fredette, Brandon Knight, Kemba Walker, Alec Burks) are often viewed as combo guards.

Past Results for Point Guard Prospects on Pre-Draft Vertical Jump Tests

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    Phenomenal athletes shine in the combine. John Wall had an amazing 11' 8.5" Max Vertical Reach. 2010 NBA Draft Position: #1.
    Phenomenal athletes shine in the combine. John Wall had an amazing 11' 8.5" Max Vertical Reach. 2010 NBA Draft Position: #1.Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Of the four measurements above, the vertical measurement that seems to correlate the strongest to higher draft selections seems to be “Max Vertical Reach” and even the correlation here is rather weak. 

    With the advantage of hindsight, something the scouts did not have, you may see that  some players, with the higher Max Vertical Reach scores were, in fact, worthy of a higher draft position in their respective drafts.  It does seem that this statistic should get a little more weight in their consideration than Max Vertical Jump or No-Step Vertical Jump

    Past Results for Point Guard Prospects on NBA Draft Combine Vertical Jump Tests:

    Draft Prospect

    Draft Year

    No-Step Vertical Jump

    Max Vertical Jump

    Max Vertical Reach

    Draft Position

    Brandon Roy

    2006

    34.0”

    40.5”

    11' 9.5”

    6

    John Wall

    2010

    30.0”

    39.0”

    11' 8.5”

    1

    O.J. Mayo

    2008

    30.5”

    41.0”

    11' 8.5”

    3

    Rodrigue Beabois

    2009

    29.5”

    39.0”

    11' 7.0”

    39

    Derrick Rose

    2008

    34.5”

    40.0”

    11' 6.5”

    1

    Tyreke Evans

    2009

    28.5”

    34.0”

    11' 6.0”

    6

    Dwayne Wade

    2003

    31.5”

    35.0”

    11' 5.0”

    5

    Russell Westbrook

    2008

    30.0”

    36.5”

    11' 4.5”

    4

    Jordan Farmar

    2006

    33.5”

    42.0”

    11' 4.5”

    26

    Gilbert Arenas

    2001

    31.5”

    36.0”

    11' 3.5”

    30

    Mike Conley, Jr.

    2007

    35.5”

    40.5”

    11' 3.0”

    4

    Nate Robinson

    2004

    35.5”

    43.5”

    11' 3.0”

    21

    Jamaal Tinsley

    2001

    28.0”

    37.5”

    11' 3.0”

    27

    Jrue Holiday

    2009

    28.5”

    34.0”

    11' 2.5”

    13

    Dominique Jones

    2010

    26.0”

    32.5”

    11' 1.5”

    34

    Jay Williams

    2002

    28.5

    36

    11' 1.0”

    2

    Deron Williams

    2005

    30.0”

    35.0”

    11' 1.0”

    3

    Stephen Curry

    2009

    29.5”

    35.5”

    11' 0.5”

    8

    Kirk Hinrich

    2003

    29.0”

    33.5”

    11' 0.0”

    7

    Jameer Nelson

    2004

    28.5”

    35.5"

    10' 9.0”

    20

    Raymond Felton

    2005

    29.0”

    33.5”

    10' 11.5”

    5

    Chris Paul

    2005

    32.0”

    38.0”

    10' 11.0”

    4

    Ty Lawson

    2009

    29.0”

    36.5”

    10' 11.0”

    17

     

    Looking at the measurements above, it probably makes it easier to see why the Portland has a lot of questions about the future of Brandon Roy.

    Brandon Roy was a fantastic athlete and an underrated athlete, having bad knees is going to permanently change his game for the worse. The close out performance we saw in Dallas is not likely to be repeated often, if ever, in his career.

Vertical Jump Numbers Alone Fail to Tell Much of a Story

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    Russell Westbrook only had a 36.5" vetical Jump when tested. It may have increased since he came into the league. Do you think that Jimmer will test for explosiveness as Westbrook?
    Russell Westbrook only had a 36.5" vetical Jump when tested. It may have increased since he came into the league. Do you think that Jimmer will test for explosiveness as Westbrook?Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    The average Max Vertical Jump for all positions at the draft combine seems to be about 34"  for players that are drafted in the lottery.

    For point guard prospects taken in the lottery, the average vertical is closer to 36". So, it seems that point guards are a little more explosive on average than other position. It is pretty close when you look at it.

    Fredette's trainer claims that Jimmer has a maximum vertical jump just ½” less than Russell Westbrook (36.5") did when he came out of UCLA recognized as a thoroughbred and it would suggest that Fredette is a more explosive than Deron Williams (35.0"). It seems difficult to believe that either of these will be true.  

    In addition it is unlikely that Fredette or Irving will be impressive in the area of Max Vertical Reach, which seems to be a better indicator of whether or not a guard will be able to score in the paint.

    Irving and Fredette are unlikely to ever be remembered for his leaping ability. After watching them, it is pretty clear that neither will much “helicopter” dunking in the NBA.  Fredette, in fact, appears to be the type of player that would find it nearly impossible to throw it down in most game situations or in any type of traffic. 

    Jimmer is a “strong” penetrator, but he is not an "explosive" penetrator by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, “explosive” is the wrong word to describe his dribble drive attack. Jimmer is a “strong” with his dribble, but at the same time he is not a strong finisher. The explosion seems absent.

    Question:  How many NBA talent scouts would keep their job, if they walked into the general manager's office with Jimmer's vertical jump numbers and yelled: “This guy is going to be more explosive than Russell Westbrook and Dwayne Wade!”

    Answer: None. ('Cause that is crazy talk.)

    There is a lot more than goes into making an “explosive” player who can get into the lane than a vertical jump under controlled circumstances.

    Fredette lacks the explosiveness of a slasher and the length of most of your dunk in traffic players. He plays his game seeking (and finding) space for a jump shot. It is his preferred method of delivery. 

    O.J Mayo (Max Vertical Jump of 41.0") and Jordan Farmar (42.0") were absolute studs on this test, however, it does not really translate into their game.

    The good news is a 36” Max Vertical Jump would place Jimmer Fredette  in some good company. At a glance, the data suggests that athletes with the higher Max Vertical Reach measurements tend to be more successful scorers in general and more proficient in the paint. 

    It is just one measurement and you see a Raymond Felton, Chris Paul, Ty Lawson, and Jameer Nelson are lower on this particular scale, while still being successful in the NBA because of their other attributes 

    If guys like Jimmer Fredette, Kemba Walker, and Nolan Smith perfom well in the vertical portion of  the pre-draft workouts and record a maximium vertical jump measurements around 36” of Dwayne Wade, Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook, and Tyreke Evans. They would seem rate well for potential “explosiveness” in most eyes. 

    Cynic's Conclusion:

    Basically, all Fredette's trainer said when he broadcasted his "Vertical Jump as 36"" is that athletically Fredette appears to be at best average, if you place value in his assessment. And, if you think it was a lucky jump that resulted in a 36" measurement, then Fredette will more than likely test below average. 

    My guess is that Irving will test below average as well.

    Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Jameer Nelson, Ty Lawson, Stephen Curry, and Raymond Felton did not score that well on the Max Vertical Reach and they were all about average on the Max Vertical Jump test. Yet, they have been successful in the NBA.

    The best jumper of that group was actually Paul (38.0"), he just lacks the height and length to translate that into much reach.

    If you look at Russell Westbrook's numbers you can see the impact of length and height. Westbrook had a "Max Vertical Jump" 1.5" less than Paul's, but a max vertical reach that was 11'-4.5" or almost 6" greater than Paul's. That's why he dunks and Paul lobs floaters.

    The Real Takeaway:

    Apparently, for point guards this is seems to be a statistic less important than some others.

Strength Testing: How Strong Does a Point Guard Prospect Need to Be?

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    Dominique Jones is one of the strongest point guard prospects in recent draft history. He went 34th.
    Dominique Jones is one of the strongest point guard prospects in recent draft history. He went 34th.Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    Jimmer Fredette's stength coach stated that Fredette should do well with the Strength Test, because Jimmer can bench press 265 lbs. That is considerably more than I can do (before breakfast).

    The Strength Test is simply bench pressing 185 lbs. in a controlled manner as many times as you can.  He projects that Jimmer should be able to do 185 lbs. nine or ten times. That is a good number. In all honesty, it would not surprise me if Fredette can do more. He appears to be a stout young man.

    This could be a good area for a guy like Fredette to stand out among some of the other candidates, but it will have a minimal impact on his draft stock. Pre-draft strength testing for point guards seems to have very little correlation to either on the court success or draft position.

    The next table illustrates this point: 

    Past Results for Point Guard Prospects on 185-lb Bench Press:

    Draft Prospect

    Draft Year

    185 lb Lifts

    Draft Position

    Dominique Jones

    2010

    19

    34

    Jameer Nelson

    2004

    15

    20

    Deron Williams

    2005

    15

    3

    Ty Lawson

    2009

    14

    17

    Nate Robinson

    2004

    13

    21

    Mike Conley, Jr.

    2007

    13

    4

    Gilbert Arenas

    2001

    12

    30

    Russell Westbrook

    2008

    12

    4

    Jordan Farmar

    2006

    11

    26

    Jay Williams

    2002

    10

    2

    Kirk Hinrich

    2003

    10

    7

    Chris Paul

    2005

    10

    4

    Derrick Rose

    2008

    10

    1

    Stephen Curry

    2009

    10

    8

    Dwayne Wade

    2003

    9

    5

    O.J. Mayo

    2008

    7

    3

    Tyreke Evans

    2009

    7

    6

    Raymond Felton

    2005

    6

    5

    Brandon Roy

    2006

    6

    6

    Jrue Holiday

    2009

    6

    13

    Rodrigue Beabois

    2009

    3

    39

    Jamaal Tinsley

    2001

    1

    27

    John Wall

    2010

    N/A

    1

     

    As you can see most of the players that were drafted high, had 10 or less 185 lbs lifts. As hard as it is to imagine, it is almost as if there is a slightly inverse relationship between strength prior to draft day and future performance, if there is any correlation at all. 

    Stephen Curry is a player that may have helped his draft status with the strength test, because it was such a big concern for scouts. He succesfully completed 10 lifts, which is one more than Dwayne Wade and three more than Tyreke Evans. D.J. Augistin only completed two lifts and was drafted 9th.

    So, it is a good guess that this particular test has a relatively low importance when talent is being assessed. D.J. Augistin only completed two lifts and was drafted ninthand Jamaal Tinsley only completed a single lift and was drafted 27th.  In 2009, Ty Lawson, was drafted behind three point guards that  to completed less 185 lbs. repetitions

    To provide some perspective, only 6 of the 20 tops scores for point guards in the 185 lb bench press were drafted in the last 10 years. Of those, only two, Deron Williams (15 Reps – Drafted third overall) and Troy Bell (17 Reps – Drafted 17th overall) were drafted in the first round.

    The two players that recorded the most repetitions, Justin Love (24 Reps in 2000) and J.R. Brenner (24 Reps 2002),  went undrafted. 

    As an interesting note, Love and Brenner had excellent overall athletic performances and were among the highest ranked  pure athletes in there respect draft classes, yet it was not enough to get their names called.

    Conclusion:

    Neither Fredette or  Irving should hurt themselves here. If they can do six to 10 repetitions, it is as good as doing 15.

    At the end of the day, no one should really be concerned with where a point guard prospect ranks on his bench press results before he is drafted. 

Speed and Agility Measurements Matter the Most:

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    Jay Williams was one of the best prospects drafted in the last decade. A motorcycle accident destroyed his prime as speed and quickness were the core of his game.
    Jay Williams was one of the best prospects drafted in the last decade. A motorcycle accident destroyed his prime as speed and quickness were the core of his game.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    I am heading this slide with Jay Williams, because he re would have really stood out in both areas. Had he avoid motor bikes, had the opportunity to put on quite a show in Chicago. There is little doubt that he was worthy of the second pick in the 2002 draft.

    Point guards tend to be among the the quickest and fastest players on the court. The Speed and Agility results for the sample group are shown on the same table.

    The data has been sorted on the Sprint results. The truth is that both of these measurements seem to be almost equally important, however, Lane Agility seems to be the best overall athletic indicator for point guard selection.

    The Speed test is a three-quarter court sprint without the ball and Agility is the Lane Agility Test, where players shuffle in between cones.  These seem to be the most important tests for the point guard position.

     

    Past Results for Point Guard Prospects on 185-lb Bench Press:

    Draft Prospect

    Draft Year

    Speed

    (¾ Court Sprint)

    Agility

    (Lane Agility Test)

    Draft Position

    Gilbert Arenas

    2001

    3.25

    N/A

    30

    Jay Williams

    2002

    3.09

    10.34

    2

    Rodrigue Beabois

    2009

    3.15

    10.49

    39

    Raymond Felton

    2005

    3.06

    10.50

    5

    Dwayne Wade

    2003

    3.08

    10.56

    5

    Jrue Holiday

    2009

    3.21

    10.64

    13

    Nate Robinson

    2004

    2.96

    10.75

    21

    Deron Williams

    2005

    3.25

    10.83

    3

    John Wall

    2010

    3.14

    10.84

    1

    Dominique Jones

    2010

    3.31

    10.88

    34

    Jameer Nelson

    2004

    3.14

    10.95

    20

    Russell Westbrook

    2008

    3.08

    10.98

    4

    Kirk Hinrich

    2003

    3.10

    10.98

    7

    Ty Lawson

    2009

    3.12

    10.98

    17

    O.J. Mayo

    2008

    3.14

    11.04

    3

    Jordan Farmar

    2006

    3.17

    11.07

    26

    Stephen Curry

    2009

    3.28

    11.07

    8

    Chris Paul

    2005

    3.22

    11.09

    4

    Brandon Roy

    2006

    3.27

    11.13

    6

    Mike Conley, Jr.

    2007

    3.09

    11.63

    4

    Derrick Rose

    2008

    3.05

    11.69

    1

    Tyreke Evans

    2009

    3.17

    11.81

    6

    Jamaal Tinsley

    2001

    3.20

    11.96

    27

     

    In a larger sample size, it become clear that the best performing point guards in the NBA excel in these two areas.  These are the two areas that correlate the strongest with whether or a not a players was even drafted.

    All seven point guards drafted in 2008, were in the top ten for the Sprint; and, of the players who were not drafted eight of the 10 point guards were among the bottom 10 in the Sprint.  

    Derrick Rose tied for the highest Speed rating in his draft year at 3.05 seconds and has the second highest recorded combine sprint for point guards drafted in the first round. Only Nate Robinson has a faster recorded sprint with a mind blowing 2.96.

    Derrick Rose has only one weakness in his game: On Ball Defense and you can see by the scores he was a sub performer on the shuttle test. (Unfortunately, no sprint data is available for Allen Iverson or Mugsy Bogues.)

    The guys who are fast without the ball are fast (or faster) when they have it. These are the open court one man fast break players like Ty Lawson and Dwayne Wade.

    The results for results for speed and agility are, generally, very close for all point guards in the workout, which suggests that this is a key area that gets them invited to pre-draft workouts in the first place.

    Slow guys are simply asked to stay home.

    It is hard to tell which score is more significant when assigning a draft position to a player. But, it is pretty clear that you need to have one, the other or both, to make the cut. It will be very interesting to see how Fredette and Irving perform here.

    A poor performance in either the speed or the agility category for Fredette could mean the doubters are right. My guess is that he will be average in the sprint (> 3.16 sec) and lacking in agility (> 11.6 sec). If by chance he does poorly in both expect him to slide into the very late first round. 

    Irving, also, looks like a pretty average athlete. Nonetheless, he is expected score well on the lane agility, even if not at the elite level of a Jay Williams or a Raymond Felton. 

    With the high regard there is for Kyrie's court vision and the "weakness" of the draft I would not expect any point guard to be drafted ahead of him. For some reason, he seems to be insulated from the concerns there  

    The players who are drafted and stay in the league tend to score very well in both these two categories.  

How will Combo Guards: Fredette, Walker, and Nolan Smith Do in the Draft?

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    Nolan Smith might be the most underrated player in this year's draft.
    Nolan Smith might be the most underrated player in this year's draft.Harry How/Getty Images

    Pre-draft athletic testing will most likely leave draft status unaffected. Nolan Smith and Fredette have probably been the two combo guards, that have their athleticism questioned the most frequently when people try to address their potential draft position. 

    Jameer Nelson is a good example of a score first guard that made the transition to point guard, by  improving his jump shot and defense in order to survive in the league.

    A few scouts have questions about Nolan Smith being able to hit an open jumpers consistently when playing off the ball and the overwhelming consensus identifies Fredette as the best shooter in this draft.

    Due to the fact that Nelson is only an average defender at best, Jimmer  can only hope that he finds himself in a similar situation with a shot blocker like  Dwight Howard backing him up.

    This leads me to think (and everyone else) that Kemba Walker has an excellent chance of being the first of these three to be taken in the draft. He is as much of a combo guard as the other two, but is viewed as the best athlete and his defense is respected.

    Winning an NCAA Championship and dominating the Big East Tournament rocketed him the draft boards, even though his efficiency fell off in the later rounds.

    As for Jimmer, if his one-step vertical is an an average 36" he can compare to many guards in the NBA now, the problem remains that elevation is not really a central part of his game. The key for him is going to be lane agility.

    He needs to prove that he has the tools to create space on pro players and stay in front of guards in a league that has outlawed hand-checking on the perimeter.

    The athletic testing is going to be almost completely overshadowed by his ability to shoot the ball. If there is any test that could hurt Fredette's stock, it would be the (again) Lane Agility Test. This will be true for Nolan Smith as well, although he has proven that he can play defense.

    In closing, all comments are welcome.

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