#2 / Guard / Indiana Pacers
The centerpiece to a four-team trade this past August that had Indiana sending Troy Murphy to New Jersey was rookie point guard Darren Collison, one of the most sought after young players in the league that summer. The UCLA product became the starter in New Orleans (that would lend him All-Rookie First Team honors) following an extended injury to Chris Paul in February 2010 that DC would use to record a 19 and 9 average.
In the first start, he put up 17 points and 18 assists and even recorded his first triple double against the Pacers. However, for a player that had proved he was too good to simply be a backup, much less a backup to the best player at his position, it made little sense for New Orleans to not get the best offer they could for him.
The Pacers, meanwhile, had been heavily maligned at the point guard position for the better part of three seasons, a number that's pretty generous to Jamaal Tinsley's perception and overall play, running Travis Diener, Flip Murray, and Earl Watson as extended starters, losing Jarrett Jack to free agency, and struggling to get T.J. Ford to stick under Jim O'Brien.
Indiana had found themselves linked to various young point guards over the summer, from Jonny Flynn to Ty Lawson, but Bird's patience landed him one of the crown jewels of a historically deep PG class of 2009. With one move, Indiana had cemented their PG issues in a player they hoped would anchor the spot for years.
Early in the season, Collison showcased his wares offensively, limiting his turnovers far better than his rookie play suggested. Unfortunately, with the positives came the negatives, mostly in his defensive abilities, or lack thereof, which were heavily scrutinized by not only O'Brien, but fans of the organization. Also down were Collison's assist numbers, though fans were quick to overlook it because of the perception regarding O'Brien's motion offense not fitting the play of a point guard and his numbers.
His defensive problems seemed stemmed at his shorter height, leading many fans to doubt his abilities as a starter. Coupled with a stretch of inconsistency that saw some poor shooting and occasionally questionable decision making, souring some outlooks on the young player, but despite overall play through the winter, Collison came on well late in the year to
Once in the playoffs Collison had a tremendous Game 1, scoring 17 points, while also adding 9 assists and 6 rebounds. As Game 2 progressed, it was becoming clear Derrick Rose was unable defensively to keep up with Collison's speed. As Collison exploited it towards the end of the first half in the second game, he suffered an unfortunate ankle injury, sidelining the rest of Game 2, and throwing him for the rest of the series, ending an unnecessarily turbulent season where preseason hype helped shortchange a lot of good things Collison accomplished.
So how did Collison impress?
And how did Darren disappoint?
Most of Collison's negatives were a direct counterbalance to his positives. He was one of the few players who generally had the game in his hand. When he well, the team tended to come out on top, but if he played poorly, the team would walk away with a loss. In fact, in his 15 worst games using Hollinger's Game Score, the Pacers were just 2-13.
Elsewhere, his assists were down a considerable amount from last year, though not having such a surefire pick and roll game in Indiana, but what was originally seen as a byproduct of O'Brien's system taking the decision making away from Collison, his assists didn't climb often under Vogel, while some of his questionable decision making returned at points in the season.
Well, what's next for DC?
Barring another genius move that lands Chris Paul or someone, DC will remain a growing option with a young team. Too much of Collison's play was over-analyzed in a negative sense, it seemed, and for a player who ended the year on his fifth head coach (if you count 2010 Summer League with Monty Williams) at one of the league's most difficult positions, that Collison's career numbers were seen as a disappointment speaks volumes of his expectations.
But that doesn't give a pass for some of his poor play, and he did play poorly at times. Consistency is what each and every young Pacer returning will need to have for this team moving forward, and Darren is among the most necessary in that category. With his scoring touch, and the team likely still needing some extra points, DC should be expected to handle more of the scoring load consistently.