Darren Collison isn’t exactly new around these parts, but he still expects to rejoin the Indiana Pacers as a different player than the speed-reliant 23-year-old who ran point for a young and hungry playoff squad in a five-game series loss to the Chicago Bulls before losing his starting spot to George Hill one season later.
“I’m able to lead much better,” Collison told Pacers.com’s Wheat Hotchkiss when asked what about his game had changed since the last time he was in town. “I was young on this team, so it was hard for me to lead. But, now...I’m comfortable leading. I have experience now. I’ve been through a lot as a player.”
Beyond being older and more experienced, the soon-to-be 30-year-old has improved his conversion rate from long-range each of his last three seasons, connecting on a career-best 41.7 percent during his eighth season.
“Early, here, in my career, I wasn’t the shooter that I am right now,” Collison admitted. “I take pride in that because that’s something that I’ve worked on every single day.”
For more on what should be expected from this more seasoned version of Darren Collison, Sactown Royalty’s Akis Yerocostas agreed to do a wide-ranging Q&A with Indy Cornrows.
Let’s start off with a topic that should be somewhat familiar to fans of the Pacers, why do you think the Kings opted to pursue George Hill (three years, $57 million) as a veteran mentor for De’Aaron Fox over retaining Darren Collison (two years, $20 million)?
I think there a few reasons. For starters, Hill is a better player on both ends of the court than Darren Collison. The Kings want their young guys to learn by example, and while Darren Collison is alright, Hill is a legitimate top 15 Point Guard in the NBA when healthy. Hill also comes from that San Antonio background, and the Kings want to change the team culture and add character guys to the locker room. I also think Hill also makes more sense playing off the ball with De'Aaron Fox than Darren Collison would have.
Collison steadily improved his accuracy from three-point range each season he was with the Kings, but his player efficiency rating took a massive hit two seasons ago when playing the two (12.8) versus running point (20.7), per 82games.com. Should he be considered as a viable off-ball option to provide the space that players like Victor Oladipo or Lance Stephenson need to be most effective?
Darren Collison is an outstanding spot up shooter, the only issue is that he doesn't really take all that many three pointers. For a guy who is as good of a shooter as he is, he only averaged 2.6 attempts a game last year. That needs to be closer to 4 or 5 in my opinion. He'll space the floor though, you have to respect his shot, especially on spot-ups.
Sacramento got outscored by 3.2 points per 100 possessions when Collison shared the floor with Rajon Rondo under George Karl. Can that negative net rating be explained by porous perimeter defense, or was it more the product of two point guards struggling to share playmaking duties?
First of all, Rajon Rondo is a defensive sieve nowadays, and that was especially true during his time in Sacramento. Collison's not a shutdown defender himself or anything, but he's definitely capable on that end of the floor. The Kings also were struggling at the time adjusting to George Karl's switching defensive scheme, and that probably contributed to the poor defensive stats. But the rating with Rondo is definitely more on Rondo than it is on Collison.
It would be better for Myles Turner — Indiana’s only true rim protector —- if he could drop back in the paint on defense and play a sort of one-man zone. Is it realistic to expect Collison to stay attached to his man’s hip through high ball screens, or is it more likely that he will have to venture 30-feet away from the basket to hedge against ball-handlers?
Collison is quick and capable enough to be a good defender and has shown such ability in the past. He never really got paired with an elite backcourt defender at all in Sacramento aside from maybe Garrett Temple last year. I don't think the Pacers will have to be hiding Collison on defense or making up for his mistakes all too often.
Overall, since this can’t really be billed as a goodwill signing due to his off-court character issues, what’s the main benefit to having Collison under reasonable contract during a rebuild?
Collison is an unexciting but steady hand at the wheel. He won't cause a fuss if he's not getting a ton of touches, he won't make too many mistakes, and he'll overall just be a solid, consistent player. That's one of the better things about Collison, is that you can pretty much expect the same thing from him on a night-to-night basis. He's a reasonable stopgap option for Indiana while they look for their PG of the future.