The next player up in our player report card series is Derek Fisher. Fisher’s season was everything we have come to know from the tough veteran. He provided solid three-point shooting, low turnovers, and tough physical defense on bigger guards. Unfortunately he also provided extremely poor shooting on anything that wasn’t an open three and matador defense against smaller and quicker guards, all things we have come to expect. It was really a year very much like the last, and therein lays the problem. The Lakers have been looking for the heir-apparent to Derek for more than a few seasons now and yet are no closer now than three years ago.
Derek Fisher led the team in three point shooting (minimum 10 attempts) by hitting just under 39.6% from behind the arc. He bounced back from the 35% he hit last year and produced a percentage right in line with what he did the first two seasons back with the Lakers. Unfortunately that was the only place on the floor he could make a shot.
He connected on only 36% of his two-point attempts excluding lay-ups. That inefficiency only becomes more frustrating when watching Fisher constantly pump-faking a somewhat open three and then stepping just inside the arc to take the worst shot in basketball, a 22-ft two point jump shot. Fisher constantly chose to give up 50% of the possible points (3 vs. 2) in exchange for at most a few percentage points increase in FG%. He also tended to take pull-up 20-foot jumpers with a defender on his right hip early in the shot clock. These types of mental decisions are not expected of such a veteran player but he continues to do it year after year.
Fisher continues to pursue the undesirable honor of being the worst finisher at the rim in the league. It is a distinction that he has either won or been close to winning in each of the last four years. This year he shot just under 50% on shots near the rim making him the 4th worst in the league (minimum 70 attempts). The league average is roughly 65% so he was a full 15% worse than average.
Offensively he doesn’t contribute much else either. He has never been the type of point guard to break down a defense or create opportunities for others. Fisher’s assist rate of 14.0 makes him the lowest assist generating point guard in the league among regular rotation players. He doesn’t have the athleticism to crash the boards like some point guards do. He truly is a catch and shoot player on offense and to his credit when decides to actually shoot on the catch the results are solid. Too often though he over-rates his ability to generate offense for himself by attacking the basket or trying pull-up jumpers that significantly hurt the Lakers offense.
Defensively he continues to provide the hard-nosed defense we have come to expect. He does well guarding bigger players where he can body them up and doesn’t have to worry about speed. He also is one of the best point guards in the league when it comes to fighting through picks. That ability is one of the reasons the Lakers were successful last year with the cross-match against the Celtics with Fisher chasing Allen while Kobe shutdown Rondo.
Unfortunately for every bigger guard there seems to be two or three smaller and quicker point guards. Father time has been kind to Fisher but it is unfair to ask him to adequately defend the unbelievably athletic crop of young point guards in this league. But while it may be unfair to expect that, it doesn’t change the fact that it is a major weakness of the Lakers defense that must be addressed.
In summary, everything said above is not breaking news. Fisher performed just as he has in prior years and continues to provide exactly what the Lakers expect of him: three-point shooting, low turnovers, and leadership. However those three items, with no additional contributions, would make an ideal back-up point guard and not a starter. But Fisher must be graded on the context of what was expected and what was provided and should not be penalized for the Lakers front office having failed to bring in his replacement in the starting line-up. He did everything asked and nothing more which would warrant a grade of C however he did have a slight drop in his efficiency on mid-range jump shots and a decrease in free throw percentage. So we will deduct slightly for that.
Final Grade: C-
Sasha Vujacic.... F
Trey Johnson.... C
Joe Smith.... D+
Theo Ratliff.... D-
Devin Ebanks.... C-
Derrick Caracter.... D+
Luke Walton.... F
Shannon Brown.... C