(“The Gallery” is an end-of-season series featuring one uniquely titled picture or video installation for every player that best summarizes or encapsulates that player’s season in a single snapshot. These aren’t highlights, they’re seminal moments expressed through the medium of art placards. Enjoy your tour!)
Point Guard, Age 30
Bankers Life Fieldhouse
The opposite of a daring, interpretive, piece, Meh shines a spotlight on what else comes along with Darren Collison’s low-volume efficiency. Last season’s league-leader in three-point field-goal percentage made 65 of his last 148 threes (43.9 percent) after starting the season 14-of-46 (30.4), and he finished out the year with the NBA’s best assist-to-turnover ratio among starting guards (minimum 65 games played); but, he bordered on being too careful.
In this early-December rendering, one can easily imagine a cycling buffer circle unwantedly appearing above the 30-year-old point guard’s head as Myles Turner noticeably pleads with him to stop processing and start playing. With the visible lag in decision-making still resulting in a converted dunk, nothing is technically lost here. This isn’t a turnover, or even a missed shot; its totally and completely fine, except for the fact that it comes at the opportunity cost of early offense.
At 11.8 seconds per possession, the Pacers (with a 17th-ranked half-court scoring offense) had the league’s third-slowest offense after securing a defensive board last season, besting only the Detroit Pistons (12.2) and Memphis Grizzlies (12.2), per advanced-stats website Inpredictable. Even at the behest of Nate McMillan to play early and late, there’s a distinct difference between working the offense deep into the shot-clock for a quality shot and taking so long to read or shake the defense that a quality shot can no longer be found. According to NBA.com, Collison held the ball for about 5.13 seconds per touch this season, highest on the team, ahead of Cory Joseph (4.56), Aaron Holiday (4.1), and Tyreke Evans (3.98). In the playoffs, that number ballooned to a whopping 6.18 seconds per touch, a mark higher than that owned by Kyrie Irving (5.26) over the same sample of games.
That’s not all on Collison, obviously. He shoulders most of the ball-handling responsibilities in the starting lineup, and whether denying shooters the ball coming off screens, pre-rotating to Myles Turner’s probable popping location, or vaporizing ball-screens with switches, Boston’s defense was elite at taking away the 9-year veteran’s primary options.
Still, some of that goes hand-in-hand with his shortcomings as a lead guard. Awkwardness has a tendency to ensue when he attempts to breakdown a big off the dribble, and although he usually makes the right pass, he rarely works the weakside corner or makes shots under the rim more open with head fakes and hesitations. Rather than shifting the defense, he operates within the defense’s constructs, pulling up for twos and aborting his dribble in search of optimum passing windows while piloting snug pick-and-rolls with Myles Turner in an east-west orientation, as opposed to playing downhill.
As a 30-year-old unrestricted free agent, Collison’s re-return to the Pacers will likely only materialize as a stopgap should they anticipate striking out on a more dynamic shot-creator, which would (again) be fine, yet also very…well…meh.