Derek Fisher’s Legacy: A Case Against John Hollinger’s PER System

Years ago ESPN’s John Hollinger came up with his Player Efficiency Rating, otherwise known as PER. Using a complex formula, PER tries to measure a player’s performance on a per-minute basis, adjusted for the pace of the game.

The system is designed so that a PER score of 15 is the league average for each season. A strong MVP candidate should have a score of at least 27.5, a borderline all-star should have a PER over 20.0, and rotation players should have a score greater than 13.0

Overall, the metric does a decent job of ranking the best players over the worst or average players. However, many people may not agree with historical rankings.

For instance, David Robinson is listed higher than Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley, and Neil Johnston are ranked higher than Magic Johnson.

Even Dirk Nowitzki has a higher PER score than Kobe Bryant.

Clearly, there are a lot of intangibles that Hollinger’s system does not take into account.

To illustrate why this system is severely flawed, let’s look at the case of Derek Fisher.

Throughout his career, Derek Fisher has never put up gaudy stats. Over his 14 seasons, Fisher has averaged 9.0 PPG and 3.2 APG while shooting 40 percent FG and 37 percent 3FG. This stat line in itself is nothing special.

According to Hollinger’s system, Derek Fisher has a career PER of 12.3, which means he is a player who should have been scrounging for minutes throughout his career.

But there is a reason why Pat Riley wanted to sign Fisher over the offseason and make him the starting point guard on the Miami Heat.

PER does not measure many parts of a player’s game—things that Riley recognized.

For instance, Derek Fisher is one of the most clutch players in NBA history. His career is full of many highlights including the “0.4 shot” against San Ant...

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