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Breaking Down the Derek Fisher Signing

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Derek Fisher's game is well known to most of us, but for those who don't know him, here's a quick lowdown. Furthermore, we'll explore how Fisher's game fits into the team's rotation, and what it could mean for the face of the 2013 Thunder.

The man. The myth. The legend.
The man. The myth. The legend.
Ronald Martinez

I don't often make references to pop culture, but this situation calls for it. If any of you have seen the cinematic masterpiece known as The Room, I feel like Tommy Wiseau after he found out that his girlfriend was cheating on him with his best friend. One line in particular seems relevant:

"It's not over! Everybody betray me! I fed up with this world!"

Here's the full scene, if you want a point of reference. I expected Derek Fisher to be a huge disappointment last season when we signed him. In fact, I wrote a huge tirade explaining why the signing was a farce. And, during the regular season, I was right. Unless the game went into garbage time, he killed the Thunder by missing open shots and getting owned by quicker point guards on defense. But, during the playoffs, he suddenly became relevant. He hit clutch shots when the team needed him the most, and we found an ability to mask his defensive ineptitude. I feel like this season will put us through the same cycle. The eternal optimists will love him while he bricks threes, and others will start to hate. Eventually, he'll pull the team through in the playoffs and make an emotional mess of us all. This woruld, I'm fed up with it!

Derek Fisher's game is well known to most of us, but for those who don't know him, here's a quick lowdown. Fisher is a 38 year old man who's mostly known for riding the Kobe train to 5 championships with the Los Angeles Lakers. How much he contributed to these championships is up for debate, but it's generally accepted that during his prime he was a spot on shooter with some interesting defensive tricks. Kobe functioned as the defacto point guard, but Fisher was able to function as a PG, even if he wasn't the greatest in terms of speed or passing ability.

In his older years, Derek Fisher has evolved into more of a cerebral player. You could say that he's simply a corner three shooter at this point, but that would be far from the truth. He works both on and off the ball, often contributing to the development of a play. He never drives into the post, but he's good at both shooting off the dribble and after he catches the ball. His speed and size aren't the world's greatest, but he has a knack for fooling younger players and getting open. The biggest knock on Fisher at this point is that he can't hit open shots with regularity. So even though the shots he does take are all reasonable, the shots he doesn't hit often leave you scratching your head. Yet, despite all that, when push comes to shove, he always comes through. The number of clutch shots he hit during the 2012 playoffs was incredible, and I doubt the Thunder could have gotten to the finals without him.

Also, for those of you who don't know, Derek Fisher played a few games earlier this season for the Dallas Mavericks, hoping to bring them to the playoff promiseland once again. Once he gave himself a minor injury, he and the team reached a mutual agreement to part ways, and he became a free agent once more. His stint with Dallas was off and on, but he did have a few double-digit games, and the Mavericks were 5-4 with him on the floor.

Anyway, there's lots of thoughts that come into my head with this Derek Fisher signing, and many potential scenarios. I'll do my best to describe my disorganized thoughts below.

He's not going to replace Reggie Jackson, right?

Last year, replacing Jackson was almost a necessity. His offense was about as exciting as a Pupu platter, and it was clear his overall game needed work. This year's Reggie Jackson is a bit rough around the edges, but his athleticism and ability to drive the lane have been invaluable next to the perimeter-oriented Kevin Martin. Moreover, he's the type of guy the Thunder will want to keep for a few years. If you bring on Derek Fisher, it's a huge vote of non-confidence in Reggie Jackson, and probably won't make him want to stay around beyond his Rookie deal. By all accounts, the biggest hope is that Derek Fisher will NOT replace Reggie Jackson.

The Thunder have no trust in their young players.

Combined with the signing of Brewer, the signing of Derek Fisher pretty much confirms that the Thunder have a "win now" mentality. This attitude has its' critics, one of which is our own J.A. Sherman:

"OKC has two very talented rookies sitting on the bench who have yet to get a real shot at contributing, and maddeningly, both of them possess the kinds of tools that OKC is lacking in their bench play (length, athleticism, long-range shooting). I don’t like the idea of crowding them out, and it’s not like Brewer is a veteran swing player like Caron Butler who knows how to come in, operate in a new offensive system, and contribute.

I think OKC is strangely too risk-adverse to permitting the young players to try to deal with the stress of the situation, and as a result, they never gain the composure and experience they need. Last year, the Fisher acquisition cut the legs out of Jackson, and this year, if Brewer gets rotation minutes, he’ll do the same to PJIII and Lamb.

Other good teams have done much better with integrating youth; i.e. Miami with Norris Cole, the Spurs with Kawhi Leonard, etc.

What makes it so odd to me is that OKC’s very culture was BUILT on entrusting young, talented, but unproven players to the direction of the franchise. That’s a risky move; how did they then become risk-adverse?"

I don't think I could describe the situation any better than he did, but I will counterpoint by saying that the Thunder don't have as many proven veterans as they used to. Aside from Collison and Martin, the bench is entirely a bunch of young guns. In the past, the Thunder have kept around a couple more experienced players at the end of the bench for advices' sake. This move could be a step back in that direction.

I'll also say that the Thunder's bench has been completely underwhelming so far. As I touched on in another article, the lineups have been broken ever since James Harden left, and it's apparent that the current bench unit can't work well on its' own. Kevin Martin is a nice shooter and can very occasionally drive the ball, but he's not athletic enough to draw pressure, and he's not a great distributor. There's hope that Reggie Jackson can be that guy, but he's not enough of a scoring threat or distributor to really keep things going. Moreover, Nick Collison and Hasheem Thabeet are offensive black holes, making the lineup prone to a lack of production.

This isn't a problem for other big teams with weak benches because their superstars are able to play apart. For example, the Heat never have James and Wade sit on the bench together, but they get both players ample rest. The Thunder can't do that, because Westbrook and Durant rely upon each other so much offensively.

Is Derek Fisher the answer to the bench problems? Combined with Ronnie Brewer, maybe. Neither are great distributors or scorers, but they could diversify the offense enough to give Westbrook and Durant some rest. This brings me to my next thought.

Scott Brooks may start going small.

We've already explored the possibility of the new acquisitions taking over the spot of Reggie Jackson, which we definitely don't want. So, what if these acquisitions mean a new focus for the Thunder? Is Scott Brooks finally ready to cave in and regularly go to a small lineup? Hasheem Thabeet has been routinely underwhelming as a backup center, and it's clear that the Thunder struggle against certain teams. Cutting Thabeet out of the rotation could be the answer, allowing both Brewer and Fisher to slide in as 9th and 10th men. This rotation would basically establish a bench lineup as being Collison-Brewer-Martin-Fisher-Jackson.

The obvious concern is that Fisher and Martin side-by-side could be a defensive disaster. Martin falls for easy tricks and doesn't have great positioning. Meanwhile, Fisher is a defensive turnstile who gets destroyed by quicker guards. The upside of that is that the lineup has two athletic scorers and two shooters, so the offense is diverse enough to give the Thunder a bit of a spark.

Then again, Brooks doesn't have to go small at all. He may just adjust the lineup as the situation calls for it. Throw in Fisher when you need some stability. Throw in Brewer or Liggins when the other team has a swingman rattling off too many points. Throw in Thabeet when it's a post battle. Heck, perhaps Brooks will finally turn into a true Gregg Popovich disciple, utilizing almost everybody on his active roster.

Then again, the reasoning for this signing could be totally trivial.

Derek Fisher really wants to get a better NBAPA Executive Director.

If you haven't been paying attention, Derek Fisher is the head of the NBA Player's Union. Back in 2011, faced with an ultimatum of having no season in 2012, the players basically caved and accepted a bad deal. Billy Mitchell was blamed for this loss of ground, along with other allegations. Mitchell was fired over All-Star weekend, and the players haven't, as of yet, named a replacement. With Derek Fisher signing a contract for the remainder of the season, it would allow him to remain as player head of the NBAPA until next season, at least. This would give him a lot of power over who gets signed, and possibly allow him to save face after challenges to his own leadership last season.

In any case....

Fisher's signing isn't exactly shocking, but it isn't exactly status quo, either. It's hard to pick a position of where to stand, because the signing could be a huge help, and it could also be a huge disaster. I guess I'll just close this out by saying that I'm a huge proponent of the signing if it gets Scott Brooks to adjust his rotations and try new things. Or even if it's just having Fisher as an emergency backup. But I'm definitely against it if it means simply replacing Jackson with Fisher, because that's a move that could set the Thunder back for years.

What do you think of the Derek Fisher signing? Let us know in the comments!