Alfes: Why Jimmer’s second NBA opportunity will be different than his first

Jimmer Fredette has returned to the NBA with the Suns after a successful and high-scoring run in China.

There is usually something intriguing about an overseas player getting a rare second chance in the NBA.

For Udonis Haslem in 2003-04, his weight dropped from 300 to 250 pounds and propelled him to a contract with the Miami Heat after one season with Chalon-sur-Saône, a French basketball team.

For P.J. Tucker in 2012-13, his tenacious defense caught the eye of the Phoenix Suns and pried him loose from five years in Israel, Ukraine, Israel, Greece, Italy and Germany.

For Donatas Motiejunas on Sunday, his 27.3 points and 14.0 rebounds per game in the Chinese Basketball Association helped him land a deal with the San Antonio Spurs for their playoff push.

For Jimmer Fredette, though, his elite shooting ability with the Shanghai Sharks might be more intriguing than any of the aforementioned names, especially with the way the game has changed since he first entered the league in 2011-12.

The Suns and Fredette agreed to a two-year pact with a team option for 2019-20 this past Friday. Kelly Oubre Jr. (wrist) is out for the year, Josh Jackson (ankle) is day-to-day, Tyler Johnson (knee) is in no rush to return and T.J. Warren (ankle) is also on the mend — all signs that point to a substantial opportunity for the 30-year-old guard out of BYU.

Fredette is more compatible in the 2018-19 NBA than he was in the 2011-12 NBA. During his rookie year, the Kings only averaged 98.8 points per game despite playing at the fastest pace in the league. Just three players on the Sacramento roster averaged more than one three-point conversion per game: Marcus Thornton (2.1), Isaiah Thomas (1.3) and Fredette (1.3).

Despite the up-tempo offense, the Kings could only make 6.2 three-pointers per game. The Magic (10.2), Spurs (8.4) and Warriors (7.9) led the NBA in that department, but playing at a slower pace and running a half-court offense was far more important than shooting beyond the perimeter in 2011-12.

Times have changed — and Fredette is ready for it after speaking with the media last week.

“The focus of the NBA now is shooting three, playing fast,” Fredette said to reporters. “When I came in, it wasn’t necessarily as much like that. It’s definitely tailored a little bit more to my game at this point then when I first came in… It’s something that I’ve continued to watch and continued to see.”

The 2011-12 Kings are nothing like the 2018-19 Suns, a team that averages 106.9 points per game. Eight players on the Phoenix roster this season have averaged more than one three-point conversion per game: Devin Booker (2.1), Trevor Ariza (1.9), Warren (1.8), Oubre Jr. (1.7), Johnson (1.4), Mikal Bridges (1.3), Isaiah Canaan (1.3) and Troy Daniels (1.3).

The Suns make 9.5 three-pointers per game, which is much more than the 2011-12 Kings but still among the league’s worst. The Rockets (15.7), Bucks (13.4) and Warriors (12.9) — three of the four Vegas favorites to win the NBA title — have relied so heavily on three-point shooting and rarely slow down their tempo or consistently run a half-court offense.

Just like it did with P.J. Tucker, Phoenix is looking to revitalize the career of Jimmer Fredette. While the Suns are arguably the worst team, they are still in the NBA, a league that has changed so drastically over the last decade.

Three-point shooting has never been more important than it is right now. Over three years in the Chinese Basketball Association, Fredette averaged 37.6, 36.9 and 36.0 points per game on 39.6 percent, 41.3 percent and 41.9 percent three-point shooting. Yes, he averaged over 40 minutes per game, but that jaw-dropping production is intriguing in an NBA that incentivizes shooters.

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