Player Analysis: Darren Collison
May 10, 2011
LOOKING BACK: The centerpiece of last summer's roster moves (acquired in August with James Posey in the four-team trade that sent Troy Murphy to New Jersey) , Collison had thrived as Chris Paul's backup in New Orleans and raised eyebrows around the league with his performance as the fill-in starter while Paul was injured. The Pacers viewed him as a potential long-term answer at a critical position that had been something of a revolving door throughout this decade. Though Collison was not spectacular, he was solid and started 79 games at the point -- more than any Pacers player since Mark Jackson in the 1999-2000 season when the Pacers reached the NBA Finals. He initially struggled to adapt to Jim O'Brien's pass-and-cut system but came to life after Frank Vogel took over. Vogel emphasized more pick-and-roll plays, Collison's strength, and gave the point guards more freedom to command the team on the floor. After opening the first-round series against Chicago and Derrick Rose with a big Game 1 (17 points, nine assists, six rebounds) he sprained his left ankle in Game 2 and his production slipped thereafter.
LOOKING AHEAD: As tough as it is to handle the point guard position in the NBA, that transition has been exponentially more difficult for Collison, who played for four head coaches with four distinctly different systems in his first two seasons. He is locked in as the starter heading into 2011-12 and beyond. As a smaller point guard, he needs to build strength and stamina while protecting his quickness. The Pacers would like to see improvement as a one-on-one defender, as well. A positive personality with a solid work ethic, there's no reason to doubt Collison will continue to improve and only gain a firmer grasp on his position.
KEY STATS: Collison's 13.2 scoring average represented a slight increase over the 12.4 of his rookie season, but his assists dipped to 5.1 (from 5.7) and his shooting percentages also declined to .457 (from .477) and .331 from the 3-point line (from .400). He averaged 5.4 assists while shooting .471 in 38 games under Vogel.
CONTRACT STATUS: Signed through the 2011-12 season, with team a team option for 2012-13.
OUTLOOK: The most talented point guard the Pacers have had since Jackson, Collison essentially leveled off in terms of productivity in his second season and needs to take a significant step forward next year to cement his status with the team and re-establish himself as a rising star.