Cloud Coverage (tentative name, please suggest better ones in the comments) is a new, hopefully weekly, column in which I try my hand at OKC Thunder beat writing. Let’s see how this goes.
The trade deadline came and went without much fanfare for Oklahoma City. Unrealistic dreams of a big move had filled my head for weeks leading up to that last day. Maybe Sacramento was ready to give up on Boogie Cousins (and maybe Presti and Brooks could beat some sense into him). What if Utah decided to skew younger with Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter and let Paul Millsap slide over? These were the type of trades I wished would happen. What OKC got was Ronnie Brewer for a 2014 second round pick, and a trade exception for letting Eric Maynor play out his contract year in Portland. Not exactly the kind of splash you write home about.
I actually liked these moves. Maynor needed to prove that he was worth a free agent contract and wasn’t going to get playing time behind Reggie Jackson in OKC. The Portland bench was the NBA equivalent of a tire fire, so they jumped at the chance to add an actual basketball player. Ronnie Brewer I thought could help out in smaller lineups that had Durant playing power forward and he could be part of a monsterous defensive duo with Thabo Sefolosha. Unfortunately this hasn’t been the case and Brewer hasn’t been utilized much at all, receiving the dreaded DNP-CD as recently as last night’s win over the Magic.
However, the biggest impact of the trade deadline has been what was done with the empty roster spot vacated by Maynor. The Thunder re-signed 38-year-old Derek Fisher. At first I thought this was a great idea. Fisher would be a “break in case of emergency” point guard in case something happened to Westbrook or Reggie Jackson and he could be a mentor and a veteran leader for a young team. But Scott Brooks had other plans. When asked who was the backup point guard between a surging Jackson or Fisher, Brooks answered, “Both”. He even checked in both guards at the same time in Fisher’s first game back with the team to further frustrate anyone who would dare try to figure out his methods or preferences.
Fisher hasn’t been particularly good in his time back with the Thunder. In 13 games, he’s already had 4 outings where he put up at least 4 shots and came away with zero points. (The NBA record for such games in a season is 7) He’s clearly a minus defender at this stage in his game and he’s posting career low efficiency ratings. His PER (player efficiency rating) is floating around a 7.5. (For comparison, KD’s PER is 27.95, Westbrook’s is 23.5 and Nick Collison’s is 13.83) His role is not only leaching minutes away from Reggie Jackson, who is vastly improved in his second year out of Boston College and was becoming a solid defender and running the second team offense more than capably, but Fisher’s presence has also completely eliminated the role of DeAndre Liggins, who was making a name for himself as an energy guy off the bench. Liggins had also filled in competently in the starting lineup in place of an injured Sefolosha earlier this year. Liggins hasn’t played more than 4 minutes since February 27th, and has only appeared in three games since then. Two of those three games were recorded “Trillions” (All stats sourced from Basketball Reference)
I can’t immediately propose an answer to this problem other than “Don’t play Derek Fisher so much,” and even then that’s not helping. Scott Brooks is notoriously loyal in his rotation, as anyone who watched LeBron and company blow by Kendrick Perkins in the Finals last year can attest. I have nightmares of Tony Parker and Tim Duncan or Ty Lawson and the Manimal Kenneth Faried playing a mismatch against Fisher in the postseason. I see the validity in signing Fisher again. He’s been there before, and with the Thunder still being such a young team, it’s easy to see the need for a “father figure” in the locker room. It just seems that Derek Fisher’s leadership has more of a place off the court than on it.