Following me on this journey won’t always be fun but will hopefully prove insightful and valuable nevertheless. I don’t know how many times I’ve written this sentence but here it goes one more time:
The 2017-18 Indiana Pacers wildly exceeded expectations. They were expected to be a bubble playoff team at best, led by upcoming center Myles Turner surrounded by a lot of mediocre role players.
Instead Victor Oladipo made a leap to All-NBA, Darren Collison led the league in three-point percentage, Bojan Bogdanovic and Thaddeus Young played 80 games of 30 plus minutes while averaging double-digit points per game and Domantas Sabonis become one of the league’s best bench players.
The Pacers also managed to win a remarkable number of close games. The team was 12-4 in games within one point with 30 seconds or fewer left. They had a razor-sharp margin of victory, where even the slightest drop off in one of their players could have been the difference between 48 wins and 40.
A lot of Indiana’s players can regress but the number one candidate to return to his traditional level of playing is Collison who turned 31 just a 12 days ago.
The six-foot point guard had a the best season of his career, leading the NBA in both three-point percent (46.8) and assist-turnover ratio (4.3). These stats led him to produce the fourth highest offensive rating in the NBA last season at 126, according to basketball refence.
Collison offensive rating is even more impressive because he managed to produce it while playing 29.2 minutes per game, averaging 9.2 shots per game and scoring 12.4 points per game.
Only eight point-guards aged 31 or older in the history of the NBA have had an offensive rating of 120 or higher while still averaging double-digit points. Five of them are or will be in the Hall of Fame.
Another alarming stat was Collison’s 25 percent shooting percentage from within 3-10 feet of the rim; his career average before the season was 38 percent. He made up for this shortfall by shooting a career-high from three.
But if Collison’s three-point percentage returns to his career average of 39 percent based on last year’s shot attempts, his shooting percentage will drop from a nearly 50 percent field goal percentage to 47.
Last season Collision had the second-worst defensive rating on the team at 110 but also had the highest positive net rating. If Collison’s shooting comes down even slightly, and his defense doesn’t improve -- which is likely considering his age, height and historical standards -- he will become more of a liability and the difference in winning or losing the close games I mentioned above.
Collison’s stats dropped in games three through five of the playoffs and he immediately became a liability on the court. Now, those three games could be an anomaly. But if they’re a sign of the future, Collison could see his minutes dwindle -- especially since the Pacers have three other quality ball handlers in Oladipo, Tyreke Evans and Cory Joseph.