I’m fairly certain no player who has averaged less than six points and three rebounds in his most recent year, and has gone unsigned heading into the start of the next NBA season, has ever gotten as much attention in an offseason as Derek Fisher.
If you doubt me, first consider there are no less than 15 Bleacher Report articles written in the last month that all center on the same question – should the Los Angeles Lakers resign the 38-year-old Fisher?
The two sides of the argument each have legitimate reasons.
On one end, Fisher is old and has definitely slowed down in the last couple years. He never had the lateral quickness to stay in front of the league’s quickest point guards, and that shortcoming likely cost the Lakers a few wins in the 2011 Playoffs (Fish matched up with Chris Paul in the first round, then Russell Westbrook in the second round).
As Yahoo’s Kelly Dwyer put it in March, 2012:
Fisher, to be quite frank, has been absolutely brutal on both sides of the ball over the last two seasons for Los Angeles. He can’t stay in front of even the NBA’s slowest point guards, at this point, and he offers precious little offensively save for the occasional (as in, “32 percent of the time he shoots one”) 3-point basket. By every conceivable standard, he was a millstone for the team on the court. No amount of leadership and smarts (two things Fisher provides in spades) could make up for his shortcomings.
At the same time, it’s those smarts and leadership qualities – along with a strong friendship with Kobe Bryant – that make him an enticing possibility for the Lakers to resign. Even if the once-clutch Fisher doesn’t have another .4 second miracle in him, his intangibles will eventually land him a spot on somebody’s roster.
The Bulls were apparently showed interest last summer, but according to various reports since then Fisher isn’t interested in playing for a team till mid-season, only to be shoved down the bench once Derrick Rose returns from injury.
Other possibilities besides the Lakers include the Thunder again, the Nets, Mavericks and Celtics. The most logical place for Fisher, if he wants to play an entire season, is the Cleveland Cavaliers, which lack a dependable point guard behind Kyrie Irving (sorry, Booby Gibson).
The safe bet, though, is that Fisher waits it out until spring and goes to a team that has the most attractive combination of postseason potential and available minutes at the point guard position. There’s a strong chance this will be determined by an injury yet to happen.
If the Lakers want him again, it’s likely he’ll want to resign despite the cold way the franchise jettisoned him last season. The combination of staying near his LA home and likelihood of winning a sixth title with his buddy Bryant would seem too strong to pass up.
Let’s say this happens.
Would Fisher represent an upgrade over the current backup point guards – Steve Blake, Chris Duhon or Darius Morris? Instead of looking at basic box score stats, or relying on younger-vs-older player stereotypes, let’s look at the advanced statistics which better tell us the whole story.
Take a deep breath. Do not fear the “pocket squares,” dear reader. For their path is one to enlightenment.
1. Our first number is “Win Shares,” an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player. The following numbers, taken from basketball-reference.com, apply to the regular 2011-12 season:
Chris Duhon 1.2 (down from career high of 5.2 in 2005-06)
Derek Fisher 1.2 (down from his career high of 6.3 in 2008-09)
Steve Blake 1.0 (down from career high 5.8 in 2008-09)
Darius Morris -.2 (rookie year)
2. Our second stat is Player Efficiency Rating, as devised by ESPN’s John Hollinger: It’s the overall rating of a player’s per-minute statistical production. The league average is 15.00 every season.
Steve Blake 8.55 (#87 out of 106 PG’s)
Chris Duhon 8.39 (#90)
Derek Fisher 8.02 (#91)
Darius Morris 5.22 (#100)
3. Finally, we have Alternate Player Efficiency Rating, which isn’t simply the PER dressed in some kind of throwback jersey. It’s a more inclusive composite metric that also takes into account the pace of the team and charges, according to hoopdata.com.
In LA 9.78
In OKC 6.00
Steve Blake 8.95
Chris Duhon 8.78
Darius Morris 6.32
N.B. Duhon played last season in Orlando. Fisher played 43 games in L.A. and 20 games in OKC. Blake and Morris spent the entire season in L.A.