Utah Jazz History: We love Randy Foye, we hate Derek Fisher -- and perception vs reality

Harry How/Getty Images

I've been a Utah Jazz fan for decades before this season. And I will be a Utah Jazz fan for decades after this season. But looking at our team this season, I don't remember a roster that caused so much discord within the Jazz fan base as this one has. Sure, we have our heroes and villains in franchise history. All franchises have them. We love John Stockton, Karl Malone, Jerry Sloan, Mehmet Okur, and so on. We hate guys like Carlos Boozer, Mark Jackson, and some really don't like John Amaechi (mostly for off the court reasons).

What is really interesting to me is the way emotion plays into perception and reality. I'm totally guilty of this myself. I absolutely loath Michael Jordan. I dislike him so much as a human being that it has actually prevented me from seeing just how good he was as a player. I'm a big stats nerd, so somehow avoiding looking at Jordan with numbers was a huge oversight. When I finally did I grudgingly had to admit that, yeah, he was pretty amazing as an NBA player. I didn't like finding that out, but by the metrics that I value he was frankly without peer during his era. And he is one of the best ever. I still hate him as a human being, and I wish ill of him. But when looking at his actual on-court production? His performance was something you couldn't argue against. He got the job done.

I think, and I could be wrong here, but that our emotions really color how we view information. Jordan the player won me over. But I still hold my biases against him. I think another great example of this in Jazzland would be how we feel about Derek Fisher and Randy Foye. I think this is a really good case study because -- honestly -- I could live without either of them quite happily. That said, WHEN he was here, we were very honest with Fisher's flaws, but every single one of us cheered when he hit that three pointer in the playoffs against the Golden State Warriors. Similarly so, as a veteran combo guard with a strong outside shooting bias, Foye is here to fill the role of what we EXPECTED when we traded for Fisher.

Ultimately, a lot of our perception and feelings about Fisher are so because we know how the Fisher story ends. We're right in the middle of the Foye period, and we're on the precipice of the playoffs. Fisher's benefit to the team came out in the playoffs when he had to start and defend Tracy McGrady, and hit big shots. He did both of those things. Foye is here to hit big shots -- and he has so far in the regular season. We hope that if we make the playoffs that he would similarly step up there as well. But we don't know how the Foye story ends. He may re-sign with the Jazz this off-season; or he may have just be using us as an audition to go to a real contender. We don't know. We can't know right now. So this comparison is going to be hard.

But we can try.

I really don't like Derek Fisher. He's almost Luciferian in Jazzland. He somehow started over younger guys who were more capable of holding it down at SG. He was a strong defender and veteran leader. He did make that one big shot in the playoffs. And over all, he had a huge down season in Utah. It took a lot of coaxing to get him to even report to the Jazz in the first place from the Warriors. Then his play was poor. Then he started most of the season. Then he had family issues in the playoffs, which I totally understand. Then he maneuvered that into getting out of his deal -- which caused LHM to fight against the NBA-PA to let him out. Within hours Fisher then signed back with the Lakers, who play on the opposite side of the continent as his daughter's doctor and the surgeon who performed the operation. He was 32 years old, and had a few championships under his belt when we got him. We needed a solid back-up PG to compliment Deron Williams. He was known for making timely shots and being a professional. He left as one of the most hated players in franchise history.

What about Randy Foye? Foye was drafted as a lotto combo guard, and played in Minnesota, Washington, Los Angeles, and now Utah. He's somehow also found a way to start the majority of the games at shooting guard, over younger guys who I think are more than capable of holding it down at SG. He's not a good defender by any means, but he's a veteran. He's great from the outside, and he's made the most threes in franchise history in a season. His shooting this year, we believe, has been remarkable and unrepeatable. He's out of his mind from outside. Lots of fans absolutely love FOY3, from the fans I get to talk to. They don't care about his defense, they just love the long ball.

I guess that's fair. We don't know what he or his agent will do in the off-season. We don't know if he'll play well in the playoffs. And we're more interested in points (which we think Foye excels at where Fisher had a poor shooting year), than defense (which is what Fisher was good at, while Foye is a huge part of our defensive problems).

The other huge difference I see is that Fisher's contract was for more years, and at a higher per season value than Foye's current expiring deal. The end result was that Fisher only spent one season here. That could be the case for Foye as well.

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Season Totals:

Fish_foye_-_total

Foye is younger, and on track to play the same number of games this year, 82. He's starting more, and will end up starting 11 more games. Randy has scored more points, and has more blocks. I don't see Randy beating Derek in total minutes, assists, or A:TO ratio. But over all -- they are very, very similar.

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Season Averages:

Fish_foye_-_average

Wow. This is interesting. They both play about 27 mpg, score 10 ppg, get about 1.5 rpg, 1, spg, and the only big difference here is that Fisher got more assists, and had more pure point skills. But over all, these two dudes have performed at almost the same level on the court. But I thought we hated Fisher for his performance, if we're not hypocrites, we should also hate Foye too, right? Maybe we are hypocrites?

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Per 36 Minutes Averages:

Fish_foye_-_per_36

Yeep. These are the same guys. Except Fisher had better guard skills. But this isn't where the story ends.

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Advanced Stats and Shooting:

Fish_foye_-_advanced

This is where we see some major differences. Foye is barely a better player according to PER, ORTG and OWS. Fisher is more efficient at shooting in PPS, and he's a better defender, as seen in DRTG and DWS. He's also a better FT% shooter -- but FOYE KILLS HIM ON THREES! Foye is +10.0 3pt% than Fisher, which is one of the things we really needed. (For what it is worth, Fisher still maintained the floor spacing as guys still considered him a threat) Especially as that smaller off the ball guard who is supposed to hit spot up threes, Foye has done that in spades this year. And the numbers prove it. At the same time, we also brought in Fisher to be a good secondary distributor, and perimeter defender -- and the numbers prove that as well.

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Breaking it all down:

So what do you care more about? Three point shooting, or defense and facilitating? Both guys are almost absolutely the same guy on all other metrics. They're both shorter guards who are playing starting SG for the Jazz. We felt like Fisher was having a down season here, and that is part of the reason why we do not like him. It's not the primary reason, but it was a contributing factor for sure. Foye? Foye is having almost exactly the same season as Fisher, but the majority of fans adore him because he's making threes -- however his defense is very poor, he doesn't help other guys score (though he did a great job of this over the last two games, so 2 / 79 is pretty hot). Foye went through a few weeks of hell where he couldn't hit a shot for his life. During that period he didn't make up for it by somehow playing better defense, or rebounding or dishing more. We don't anticipate a messy divorce this off-season, so there should be no off-court problems to pop up between now and free agency for Randy Foye and Jazzland.

But this wasn't supposed to be arguing about off the court stuff. I hate Jordan off the court. But I had to force myself to look at his stats, and see that what he did ON THE COURT was worth while. Looking at ON THE COURT productions from these two guys (and not all of them are available, because I don't have synergy stats or whatever for 2006-07), it's hard to really satisfactorily say one is better than the other.

If you look at 82games.com you can see that with Fish on the floor +/- numbers in 06-07 the Jazz were +3.6 net points per 100 possessions. With him off the court they were +2.7 net points. Over all his on / off value was +1.0. What about Randy? With him on the court we're -4.9 according to 82games.com; and with him off the court the team is +3.7 net points. Over all that's a difference of -8.6 net points.

What's a bigger number? +1.0 or -8.6? If you care about these on court +/- stats this is not one that supports the theory that Foye, by the numbers, was that much better than Fisher. Really aside from age, his contract price (Foye is at $2.5m, Fish was over $5m), and his three point shooting -- Fisher is at WORST just as good, if not better than him everywhere else. But still, we hate Fisher, I know I do. And as a result, it makes me not care. Foye is amazing, and lovable, and also always better than Fisher. Right?

Not by the numbers. Threes? Yes. Everything else? No. It hurts. Our perception is to adore Foye for his remarkable, record breaking three point shooting, while sweeping it under the rug that he's bad at defense, doesn't facilitate, and is taking playing time away as the starting SG from guys who are younger and possibly going to be better players than he is today. That's the reality. He's really similar to Derek Fisher in role, in our need for him, in his production on the court, and also his status as a roadblock towards a brighter future.

Compared to Fisher I want to marry Foye. But I also care more about defense than threes. It would be hypocritical of me to say Fisher played like poop while lauding Foye. At least by the stats. If I invent some other quantitative way to gauge them, perhaps then I could say Fisher played like poop, but Randy did not. Randy has shot great from distance. I'm not taking that away from him.

I'm taking something away from myself though: my own bias to have my emotions and feelings color how I view data. By the data, if we say Fisher played poorly for us, it would be absolutely dishonest to say that someone else who produced the same on-court production isn't playing poorly for us. The reality is, our biased perceptions offer us more comfort than confronting the truth that we have decided to make false idols of the players on this 2012-2013 Utah Jazz team.

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