Oklahoma City Thunder Stat Brief: Thunder/Hornets (2/27/13)

Reggie Jackson or Derek Fisher as backup PG? Matt Keith gives the definitive answer - by the numbers.

Having dismantled a Bulls team that could not make a basket in an empty gym, the Thunder are free to turn their attention back to the Western Conference. They will do so after welcoming back a former member of the team, Derek Fisher.

You will recall that the Oklahoma City signed Fisher for the playoff push last year after Eric Maynor’s injury. Now, with Maynor gone through a trade, the Thunder are once again looking to Fisher to add point guard depth. Is it a good move?

If It Ain’t Broke…

Clearly, Russell Westbrook is a great point guard, but he cannot be a lone wolf and play every minute of every game. He needs help from the pack, and the Thunder want to know that somebody else can run the offense when he is taking a breather (or occasionally suffering the wrath of Scott Brooks).

Reggie Jackson assumed the responsibilities of backup point guard when Maynor struggled, and did remarkably well in that role. So well, in fact, that the Thunder felt comfortable dealing Maynor.

Jackson averages 11.9 minutes per game, which accounts for the bulk of the 12-plus minutes that Westbrook is not on the floor. Jackson’s playing time has also increased in recent games. Per 36 minutes he averages 12.2 points, better than the per 36 minutes averages of two Thunder starters, Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins.

He also averages 4.8 assists per 36 minutes, second only to Westbrook on the team. His assist percentage is 20.4 percent, and his effective field goal percentage is .494. Those are all excellent numbers for a backup guard who sees significant playing time.

Don’t Fix It with an Inferior Component

Now take a look at what Fisher has done lately. Per 36 minutes, Fisher averaged 12.1 points and 4.9 assists with the Mavs to start the year, but that came in an extremely small sample size of 229 minutes. Fisher's full season averaging more than the 12.2 points per 36 that Jackson has was the 2007-2008 season. The last time he averaged 4.8 or more assists per 36 was the year prior to that. He has not had an eFG percentage better than Jackson’s since 2008-2009.

If Fisher is the third string point guard, fine. But if he starts to take away minutes from Jackson, that could be a bad thing. Jackson has passed the eyeball test in recent games and the numbers underscore that he should get the vast bulk of the minutes, not Fisher.

The Thunder host the Hornets tonight after beating them by an average of 13.3 points in the first three meetings this season. If the game is another easy win, Jackson should get some extra minutes needed to cement his status as the clear cut backup point guard against a team that plays soft shot defense and does not force a lot of turnovers.