Oklahoma City Thunder: Is Derek Fisher Really Better Than Reggie Jackson?

Eric PennellCorrespondent IIApril 12, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 29:  Derek Fisher #37 of the Oklahoma City Thunder returns to play his former team the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on March 29, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

For the record, I was pretty excited when the Thunder signed Derek Fisher. Replacing a deer-in-the-headlights rookie with a 15-year, five-time champ at backup point guard is an upgrade in anyone's book.

However, Fisher hasn't been utilized quite how he was expected to be. I, and many others, simply assumed this would be a one-for-one swap. Fisher would take Jackson's minutes and run the point for the second unit. Seems simple enough, right?

To the contrary, Fisher has spent a lot more time standing on the wing without the ball in his hands than bringing the ball up the court to make the first pass. Part of the reason is that James Harden has taken complete control over the second group over the past month or so.

We all know what that looks like. Harden brings the ball up and either A) plays that wonderful cat-and-mouse game with Nick Collison on the right wing, or B) uses a high screen to get into the lane and cause havoc. The system is as powerful as it is fun to watch.

In this set Fisher takes the same role as Daequan Cook: the "stand on the three-point line to create space and wait for the dish out to drain a three" role. But every time I see Fisher standing out there, I can't help but wonder isn't Reggie Jackson better at that?

Aside from a 2-2 effort against the Clippers and a 2-3 shift against the Raptors, Fisher has been dreadful from deep (.292 since arriving in OKC). Granted, Fisher is shooting better than Jackson from outside (.213, ouch), but the other option in that scenario is to pump fake and slash to the rim, and Fisher hasn't done anything remotely close to "slashing" in about five years.

Yes, Reggie Jackson has the propensity to make a couple bonehead plays each game, but isn't he much better suited as a spot-up shooter and/or slasher in the Harden-lead set than Fisher? Jackson is much more active on the floor and shoots better from the field (.327) than Fisher (.288).

The numbers only support my theory. Since neither of them play very many minutes, let's look at their per-36 minute stats:

Fisher 2.5 2.1 0.3 1.8 6.7
Jackson 3.7 5 1.7 2.6 10

Jackson's activity is obvious, here. More rebounds, assists, steals and points. The 2.6 turnovers are hard to look at, but that was when he was running the point. As a wing player, he would have the ball in hands much less and, in turn, not have as many chances to throw the ball away.

Taking a look at a few advanced stats reveals the same conclusion:

Fisher 13.8 4.1 8.3 0.4 16.4 1.2 0.368
Jackson 18.7 5.9 20.9 2.5 17.7 9 0.411

Jackson is far ahead in usage, total rebound, assist, steal and true shooting percentages. The turnover percentage gap is much closer. Jackson is ahead on PER as well, but both of their numbers are so low it's not really even worth mentioning. 

Not shown in the numbers is the valuable in-game experience gained by Jackson, who could very easily be the backup point guard next season if Eric Maynor decides to go get paid somewhere else. How is Reggie sitting on the end of the bench in a well-tailored suit helping the team?

This same case can be made for Cole Aldrich getting minutes over Nazr Muhammad, but that horse has been thoroughly beaten. Another article, another time.

If I were coaching an NBA team (fingers crossed!) I would trade an extra turnover a game for increases in every other important stat.

Just visualize it. Harden euro-steps through two defenders and heads to the basket. The center steps up to stop him, the wing defender rotates down and Harden flips the ball out to ____________ standing on the three-point line with a defender closing out on him.

Which name would you honestly rather have in that blank? A slow, brick-laying veteran ready to retire any minute or a nimble but naive rookie who needs to get some experience?