Guard Jimmer Fredette came to the New Orleans Pelicans with a lot to prove.
A good outside shooter, it’s sometimes difficult for him to get his shot off against defenders. And playing defense hasn’t exactly been his forte. On a team loaded with guards, his chances of making the Pelicans certainly was not a lock.
But after three preseason games, Fredette is staking his claim by what he does best. Having shown great range during a stellar college career at BYU, Fredette has shot 56.0 percent (14-of-25), including 53.8 percent (7-of-13) on 3-point attempts.
“There is not a lot of guaranteed things in this league,” Fredette said after Thursday morning’s practice. “You just need to go out there and work for your spot, especially as a free agent coming in. You have to work as hard as you can and make a name for yourself right away, try to establish yourself and what you’re going to do.”
He scored a team-high 17 points in the Pelicans’ 98-86 win against Miami on Saturday in Louisville, Kentucky, making 3 of 4 3-pointers. He followed that with 10 points at Atlanta on Monday and 13 against Washington on Wednesday in Jacksonville, Florida.
Fredette played 2½ seasons with Sacramento before finishing last season with Chicago. He was attracted to the Pelicans, he said, because the team was looking to replace backup point guard Brian Roberts and 3-point shooter Anthony Morrow.
He felt he could get open shots with the Pelicans because of the driving ability of Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon and the attention defenders must pay to forward Anthony Davis.
Evans has been out with a strained hamstring, but Fredette has worked well on the second unit with Austin Rivers. That they each play both guard spots has lent itself to great chemistry.
“He’s a guy who can really drive the basketball,” Fredette said. “He can really kick it out. We work well together, and we’re smart basketball players. We know where each other is going to be, and we just need to continue to grow that chemistry.”
Coach Monty Williams said he has been impressed with Fredette’s shooting, but Williams would like him to get clean looks more often — a critique that applies to more than just Fredette.
“(I’m impressed), but I also want him to take the right shots,” Williams said. “We’ve got to work the defense a little bit more and not take so many contested 3s.”
Fredette’s time on the court will hinge on his ability to defend. Williams is a stickler for defense but is willing to work with him.
“He’s got to be able to defend that position,” Williams said. “We always tell our guys, ‘If you’re not a great defender, you’ve got to be able to guard the ball for one, hopefully two dribbles, and then we can help you out.’ I’ve talked to him about that. And it’s not like he’s not fighting on that end.”
With Evans out, Fredette has been playing mostly a backup point guard role. Williams said Fredette needs to be able to defend both guard spots.
“The league is multidimensional in the backcourt,” Williams said. “There are so many scoring point guards now, I just call them scoring guards. You have to be able to defend both spots.”
Defense will be a work in progress, but Williams said Fredette was brought in because of the positives of his game.
“He can space the floor. He can play pick-and-roll,” Williams said. “I’ve got him handling the ball right now. But I think once Tyreke starts playing, we may see Jimmer blossom even more because Tyreke has the ability to make guys better.”
The Pelicans waived forward Vernon Macklin after he did not appear in any of the team’s first three preseason games. The former University of Florida standout signed in September after a stint in China. ... Evans, expected to be out through the end of training camp, ran laps around the practice facility courts at a brisk pace after practice Thursday. “It’s one of those injuries where he’s making great progress, but we don’t want to put him in a situation where he tweaks it and it turns into something else and then he’s out until mid-November,” Williams said. … Guard Dionte Christmas participated in drills and appears recovered from his sprained ankle. He did not play in the first three exhibition games.