What Impact Will Derek Fisher Have on the Dallas Mavericks?

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The Dallas Mavericks took a step toward addressing their issues at the point guard position last week by signing veteran point guard Derek Fisher.

On Wednesday night, we actually saw what sort of impact he’ll have.

The Mavericks played Detroit last Saturday in Fisher’s debut, but his minutes were significantly limited as Darren Collison remained the Mavs first option and garnered most of the minutes in that game. Dallas’ first game in four days took place Wednesday night in Los Angeles, a game that illustrated the bigger picture for this team, something no one player on this Mavs roster can fix with ease.

Fisher comes in and is already the best ball handler in a stable of point guards that is otherwise pretty weak. Collison is the team’s best offensive option but defensively he is soft and averages around three turnovers a game. Fisher’s turnover numbers are much lower and he provides them the defensive skill they need in games like last night’s matchup against the Clippers and Chris Paul.

While Paul still had a good game at 14 points, 13 assists, Fisher did a good job of keeping the all-star in front of him and not allowing a ton of space off screens. Dallas has struggled at times with perimeter defending, allowing guys to get into the paint too easily, something Fisher will look to change. Collison can learn a lot from Fisher in the defensive department and when it comes to being smart with the ball (Dallas averages 15 turnovers per game), but should Fisher come in and automatically assume the starting role?

As a player who has averaged 3.1 assists per game he fails to address the team’s needs when it comes to ball movement. Dallas is 13th in the league in assists per game and is going to have to rely on getting easy baskets if they’re going to dig themselves out of their sub .500 hole since they’re ranked 21st in rebounding.

Fisher isn’t a guy who can play the fast break very well, something that the rest of his team is doing third best in the league thanks to Collison’s speed and ability to run the floor. Most of Fisher’s career was played in Los Angeles where the half court triangle offense was employed, most successfully with Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant having their hands on the ball a lot more than Fisher. How that half court skill set will translate to Dallas will depend heavily on the return of Dirk Nowitzki.

Fisher does add a solid three point shooter to their back court, not that they needed it considering they have the fifth best three point percentage in the league, and he will probably fit well with Nowitzki when he returns, but if we’re asking the question of does Fisher make the Mavericks a better team? Ultimately, the answer is no.

Taking Collison out of the lineup removes speed and playmaking ability from an offensive stand point. In the end, it’s an even trade. Bring in Fisher and your half court set is better and defensively you get better minutes from your point guard. With Collison, the game moves quicker and you can expect to score more. But ultimately, this Mavericks team is going to struggle.

While adding Fisher’s signature makes sense if for no other reason than to add some back court scoring (15 points and 2 assists last night) and defense, and to mentor Collison into becoming a more respectable player, Fisher coming to the Mavs doesn’t address their inability to rebound and won’t make them a top ten team in scoring or defense.  

On the other hand, we’ll have to wait to make a judgment until the Mavs are back to one hundred percent, which won’t be until Nowitzki finally suits up. What impact will Nowitzki have? No one knows, but it’ll have to be the type of impact you’d expect from a Finals MVP and 11 time All-Star or this Mavs team is going to continue to sink. For all his experience and skill, Derek Fisher alone isn’t going to make that big of a difference.