While others would have written about turnovers, Russell Westbrook, the defense or the bench play in an article like this, the truth is that the Oklahoma City Thunder have a big problem with their current rotation.
Not only is it a problem that will prevent the Thunder from playoff success if not fixed, but it is also a problem that they will most certainly not fix based on the coaching staff’s recent history in this area.
The biggest problem is Derek Fisher. It pains me to write those words, because I really do respect Fisher as a player and ambassador for the NBA game. The truth is, though, that Fisher is being criminally misused as a member of this team.
I have no problem with the Thunder bringing Fisher in for the last stretch of the regular season and the playoff run, and, frankly, no one should have a problem with it. Fisher has 17 years of NBA experience, and he played an important role on five title-winning teams.
When it comes to off-the-court impact based on playoff experience, there is no one else on the Thunder roster that comes close to Fisher. But the key phrase in the previous sentence is “off-the-court impact.”
As of March 27, Fisher is averaging 13.4 minutes played per game this season. While that is a very small number, it is alarmingly too much when compared with other players on this team.
The key player who appears to be getting ripped off in this equation is young backup point guard Reggie Jackson. A comparison of their stats per 36 minutes provides a clear explanation as to why:
Stats Per 36 Minutes Played
Now, you might be thinking something like, “Oh, come on. Those numbers really aren’t that different.”
You are wrong for two reasons. First of all, those differences are big when we are talking about players who play off the bench in shorter spurts. Second of all, even if you are not willing to acknowledge the statistical edge Jackson has, you have to concede the point that Jackson is much more valuable to have on the court given that he is 16 years younger than Fisher.
You read that right.
Fisher’s minutes are taking away from one of the more promising young athletes on the roster. Scott Brooks appears to have recognized this issue. However, he has responded to it in the wrong way.
Instead of benching Fisher and giving Jackson the minutes he needs and deserves, he plays them together. What is wrong with that? I’m glad you asked.
Look at the percentage that Fisher is shooting. It is understandable that Brooks would want a player to space the floor as a shooter, but Fisher is clearly not able to do it. He is shooting 30.8 percent from three for the Thunder. Only Jackson is shooting worse from that range, but he is really not much a perimeter shooter anyway.
Instead of getting the floor spacing and defense he needs, Brooks is getting dead weight out there in Fisher. In this case, players like Kevin Martin, DeAndre Liggins, Jeremy Lamb and Thabo Sefolosha are sitting when they are the ones that should be out there for that purpose. There are even post players like Nick Collison, Hasheem Thabeet and Perry Jones III who should be out there over Fisher.
Like I wrote before, I really am a fan of Fisher, and I do not think the Thunder signing him was a bad move in principle.
However, if they are going to use him in a way that is detrimental to the team, it was the worst move they could have made.
The Thunder must fix this aspect of the rotation before the playoffs arrive. They won’t though, and it could very well cost them soon enough.