He’s 37. He can’t guard a trash can. He’s shooting just 32 percent from 3 this season.
But Derek Fisher is available and the Thunder kind of could use a solid, reliable backup point guard heading to the playoffs. So with reports saying that Oklahoma City, along with Miami, are the top destinations for Fisher, the question is if the Thunder should extend an offer once he clears waivers on Wednesday.
To me, this isn’t an obvious yes or no thing. It’s not a no-brainer move, something that Sam Presti should clearly push the button on. Because there are extending variables here. Does Fisher actually help OKC on the floor? Is his value only in his experience and leadership? Are the Thunder already good enough at that position?
Let’s tackle that last question first. Reggie Jackson has been, okay this season. Not good. Not really bad. He’s just sort of been… there. He doesn’t affect the game much, doesn’t make many plays while he’s on the floor and as the games get more important, it’s likely Russell Westbrook’s playing time would go up while Jackson’s goes down. And if it’s about having a backup to play four or five minutes so that Westbrook can catch his breath, I’d think Jackson could handle that.
But, the question I keep coming back to is if the Thunder can live with Jackson playing three or even two minutes to start a fourth quarter in the Western Conference Finals while holding on to a four-point lead. What if Westbrook is in foul trouble? Could the Thunder really rely upon the rookie to hold them over? There was an incredible luxury with Eric Maynor as the backup, so much so that Scott Brooks had the ability to trust Maynor to finish Game 2 of the WCF while Westbrook sat and watched. That’s absolutely not happening with Jackson.
Consider this: Per 100 possessions, the Thunder are 0.9 points better than their opponent with Jackson on the floor, but 8.4 better with him off the floor. Over 48 minutes, the Thunder are actually 1.8 points worse than the other team with Jackson on the court. He’s a rookie and there has to be some forgiveness there, but again, the games are about to get really important.
(For comparison, this season with Maynor — granted, small sample size — OKC is 4.6 points better per 48 minutes and +8.3 with him on the court per 100 possessions and +6.8 with him off. Last season it was +7.9 per 48 and +9.9 per 100 possessions with him on and +2.4 with him off. So again, OKC had something really special with Maynor out there.)
In terms of big game experience, there’s no comparison. The Thunder would be much better off with Fisher. He’s won five championships, hit big shots, played in big games and has been through a lot. Just having him on the team could be a good thing. But we’re talking on the floor right now, and I’m not so sure he’s an upgrade over Royal Ivey, who is technically a point guard despite playing off the ball most of the season. Which as I said in this post, might be the right question to ask: If you’re not comfortable with Jackson, would you rather have Ivey or Fisher?
Which of course doesn’t include the off court intangibles everyone loves to point out. Things you can’t quantify like “veteran leadership” and “championship experience,” whatever the hell those things are. (Do the Thunder not have that stuff already between Nazr Mohammed, Ivey, Nick Collison and Kendrick Perkins?) But one point in Fisher’s favor that I like is that he could have a positive influence on Westbrook. There’s nothing bad about Fisher’s resume. Player Union president, a statesman, wise, smart, unselfish — you can’t really go wrong imparting that type of influence onto Russ, who can be a little bullheaded sometimes. Yeah, you’ve got Mo Cheeks to help with that stuff too, but there’s a difference in getting it from the guy in a suit and the guy that’s running lines with you at the end of practice.
To answer my own three questions: No, Fisher probably wouldn’t help OKC that much more on the court, though I think he’d ease some nerves in big moments. Yes, his value is primarily in his experience and leadership. And no, the Thunder probably aren’t good enough at that position.
So in terms of a veteran minimum contract where the only real consequence is a couple hundred thousand dollars and having to cut Ryan Reid, signing Derek Fisher makes enough sense to justify it. You can go to war with Derek Fisher. He might be washed up. He might not be able to defend anything, but for what it would take, having him on the roster probably would do a lot more good than bad.