Victor Oladipo’s rigorous offseason training regimen, which paired skill with the sustainable agility he reaped from his dramatic body transformation, was arguably the direct impetus for his unexpected explosion. However, returning to the place he repeatedly referred to as “home” with a brick-sized chip on his shoulder while making the most of greater opportunity playing beside a point guard who averaged fewer than 65 touches as compared to one racking up over 90-plus per game, shouldn’t be overlooked as the spark which ignited the powder keg.
How did Darren Collison impress?
The 30-year-old led the league in three-point shooting percentage (46.8) and assist-to-turnover ratio (4.16) without dominating the ball.
Not only was being willing and able to make more efficient use of less partially responsible for enabling Oladipo’s usage percentage (30.0) to dwarf his rate from last season (21.3), it provided that Collison could suitably float between initiating basic offense or serving as a stop-release depending upon need.
For instance, when Indiana’s leading scorer was bogged down by hard doubles against the Cavaliers in the playoffs, some of the most effective evasive maneuvers employed by the Pacers actively called upon the dual-capabilities of Collison.
Here, the off-ball shooting threat set a screen for Oladipo to invite the double; thereby, putting himself in the position to tee up an open three or immediately attack 4-on-3 with his man scrambling to recover with high hands instead of being coaxed into resetting offense after receiving a shy outlet pass.
(Note: They also could’ve had him set a RAM screen for the screener to delay the aggressive coverage, but let’s not go there...**audible sigh**).
On the flip side, with Collison handling the playmaking responsibilities after halftime of Game 3, Myles Turner set a pindown screen for Oladipo to catch the ball on the wing.
Because J.R. Smith ran directly into the pick while Kevin Love dropped to prepare to defend 2-on-1 as opposed to denying the pass, the first-time All-Star got a reprieve from the aggressive coverage as well as an open scoring opportunity.
On the season, Oladipo shot above 40 percent from three when Collison was on the floor compared to below 30 percent when he was on the bench.
How did Darren Collison disappoint?
His efficiency wasn’t profligate, so his low-volume shooting and safe playmaking wasn’t exactly equipped to cover for Oladipo going 12-of-50 over the middle three games of the series — especially not when he went 7-of-26 with only two makes coming outside the paint.
Defensively, his rearview pursuit wasn’t the same caliber of that of his understudy.
Spot the difference on these two similar actions. After getting snagged by the initial off-ball screen set by Jeff Green, Cory Joseph caught up to and blocked Jordan Clarkson’s mid-range pull-up attempt, which prevented Domantas Sabonis from needing to defend 2-on-1 in dropped position.
The angle on the screen and height of the hand-off isn’t identical and Oladipo ended up tagging Cody Zeller to force the missed hook shot, but compare Joseph’s concerted effort to recover to Clarkson to that of Collison against Spencer Dinwiddie and notice the chain reaction ushered in by the latter.
Sabonis is the dropped big in both instances, but the before and after on the above examples should still serve well to provide some context as to why the Pacers held opponents to 10.8 points per 100 possessions fewer when Oladipo, Bogdanovic, Turner and Young were on the floor with Joseph as opposed to Collison.
What’s next for Darren Collison?
With the option to shop his partially guaranteed contract to teams trying to shed salary ahead of draft night or gain cap space by waiving him, the Pacers have to determine if the low-volume efficiency which contributed to Victor Oladipo blossoming during the regular season is what he needs in a backcourt partner to advance in the postseason.