Collison places fourth in Rookie of the Year vote

Thursday, April 29, 2010
By: Jim Eichenhofer,

Filling in capably for three-time All-Star Chris Paul during his 37 starts, Darren Collison emerged as one of the NBA’s most productive rookies in 2009-10. Ultimately though, he didn’t play enough minutes overall to generate the kind of statistics that would’ve given him a chance to be in serious contention for Rookie of the Year. Sacramento’s Tyreke Evans was officially presented with the Eddie Gottlieb Trophy this afternoon, with Collison earning fourth place in the balloting. Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings filled the second and third slots, respectively.

Overall, Collison averaged 12.4 points and 5.7 assists as a rookie, but those numbers reflect the entire season, including a few chunks of the schedule when he did not log significant minutes. If you look only at Collison’s stats as a starter, they are comparable with those generated by Evans, Curry and Jennings. In 37 starts, Collison averaged 18.8 points and 9.1 assists.

Evans won the award with averages of 20.1 points, 5.8 assists and 5.3 rebounds, becoming only the fourth rookie in NBA history to notch 20, 5 and 5 in those categories (the others were Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James).

Offseason focus: Free-throw shooting

During the early portion of the 2010 offseason, we’ll be examining a few of the specific categories in which the Hornets may or may not need to improve in 2010-11, as well as what steps might be required to make tangible progress heading into next season.

As one of the NBA’s top-ranked teams in free-throw percentage in recent seasons, you might think the Hornets’ accuracy at the stripe has given them a significant advantage against their competition. Only one problem: relatively speaking, New Orleans rarely makes trips to the charity stripe.

Over the past four seasons, the Hornets have never finished higher than 25th in the NBA in free-throw attempts. That trend bottomed out in 2009-10 – New Orleans placed last among the 30 teams, with an average of only 20.3 foul shots per game.

One characteristic teams that don’t get to the line often share is a propensity to rely heavily on perimeter shots. Obviously, if you take a large chunk of your attempts from three-point range, you’re much less likely to draw fouls than if you consistently drive into the lane and get to the basket. That’s usually been the case in recent seasons for the Hornets, who attempted the ninth-most three-pointers in the NBA in 2009-10.

New Orleans was the seven-best team in the NBA in foul shooting this season at 77.8 percent, but despite having eight players finish at over 80 percent from the line, still finished 29th in made free throws. The Hornets would benefit greatly from a better mix of slashing and penetration within their offense, as opposed to backcourt and wing players who are reliant on spotting up and taking long-distance shots.

Fans often wonder why the Hornets have sometimes been inconsistent from game to game in recent years. While some of it is probably a result of the ebb and flow of a lengthy 82-game NBA schedule that every team experiences, jump-shooting clubs usually see greater fluctuations in performance, because even the elite perimeter guys like Ray Allen go through periodic slumps.

One player who made a tangible impact in this category for the Hornets was Marcus Thornton, who averaged one free throw every 10.6 minutes of playing time. As you can see from the chart below, among the team’s perimeter and wing players, Thornton ranked second (based on playing time) in that department.

The number listed next to each player represents how many minutes the player logged for each free-throw attempt, meaning that Chris Paul attempted one free throw for every nine minutes he was on the floor (190 FTAs in 1,712 minutes).
Foul Shot Frequency
Chris Paul 9.0
Marcus Thornton 10.6
Darren Collison 12.1
Morris Peterson 18.0
Peja Stojakovic 18.2
Julian Wright 21.2
James Posey 21.6