COMMENTARY | This season new Los Angeles Clippers point guard, Darren Collison, will find himself in the familiar position of backing up superstar Chris Paul.
Collison, who is entering his fifth season out of UCLA, is back in Southern California after a disappointing campaign with the Dallas Mavericks last year. After being selected for the NBA All-Rookie team in 2009-2010, Collison's stock has taken a major hit in a league that has seen a number of young point guards rise to prominence.
Fall from Grace
While no one expected Collison to be an All-Star level talent like his fellow All-Rookie Team awardees Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings and Tyreke Evans, his ability to manage a team was made apparent quickly after taking over for an injured Chris Paul with the New Orleans Hornets in 2010. With a stellar rookie campaign under his belt, Collison was dealt to the Indiana Pacers. The promising young Pacers put up a valiant effort during the 2011 playoffs with Collison at the helm but they were easily bounced by the Chicago Bulls. The following season, the Pacers were pressed to improve their point guard situation and dealt for George Hill. After splitting time with Hill in 2012, Indiana moved Collison to the Dallas Mavericks for the immortal Ian Mahinmi.
Collison, a former All-NBA Rookie Team member, who averaged 12.1 ppg, and 5.2 apg, and has proven himself a serviceable starter was traded for a player whose primary talent is providing six hard fouls.
Now on his fourth team in five seasons, Collison was understandably thoughtful about his new role during Clippers Media Day on Monday saying to Clippers.com, "If I have to sacrifice my role as a starter and give up some of my aspirations and my dreams just to win a championship, I'll do that. I think that's part of sacrifice. I think that's a part of being on a good team and helping the team win. I'm all up for that. It wasn't easy, but at the same time if that's what it's going to take to win a championship, then I'm all up for it."
Although replicating the athletic feats of the muscle-bound Eric Bledsoe will be a tough task, Collison's steady hand is just what the Clippers need. A more seasoned back up point will help vault the Clippers from dangerous team to legitimate contender.
Chris Paul's offensive wizardry was the primary reason for the Clippers' success last season. According to the NBA.com statistics database, his assist to turnover ratio was an NBA-best 4.26 and his ability to control the tempo of a game has been well documented. No reserve guard can put up numbers as stellar as Paul's, but offense that was not initiated by the All-NBA point guard was difficult to come by for the Clippers in 2012-2013. Some of this can be attributed to the now departed, Vinny Del Negro's unimaginative offensive schemes, but a majority of the Clippers' woes stemmed from their personnel.
When spelling Paul last season, Bledsoe wreaked havoc on opposing teams with his defensive prowess resulting in many fast break buckets and highlight plays. However, in the halfcourt, Bledsoe lacked the shooting touch or understanding of nuances within the offense to produce effectively. Bledsoe's defense is unparalleled at the point guard position, but his 1.70 assist to turnover ratio while mustering only a single 3-point field goal attempt per game left much to be desired. In his defense, in games where he started for an injured Paul, Bledsoe upped his assist to turnover ratio to 2.03, however, he still lacked confidence in his 3-point shot. Over the course of the season Bledsoe only attempted 78 3-point field goals, which essentially made him a non-threat from the perimeter.
While Collison's 2.40 assist to turnover ratio is nowhere near Paul's level of efficiency, a steadier hand guiding the Clippers' second unit will allow the team to weather extended rests or foul trouble from their superstar. Although he's not a sharpshooter Collison attempted 136 3 point field goals last year and his willingness to take the 3 pointer, if necessary, will force defenses to guard the perimeter. Opponents regularly sagged off of Bledsoe last season, which often resulted in four players watching Jamal Crawford performing a dribbling exhibition in a valiant attempt to salvage possessions.
Collison's position as Paul's new old back up is a perfect match for both parties. The Clippers now have a proven back up who can keep the offense rolling if Paul is in foul trouble and Collison can play meaningful minutes for a contender. If Collison hopes to be a starter again one day, steadying the bench for a potential Western Conference finalist is a great starting point.
Brandon lives in Los Angeles and watches sports more than a normal person should. He was written and podcasted for SLAMonline, and is a former Los Angeles Clippers Intern.
- Sports & Recreation
- Los Angeles Clippers
- Darren Collison
- Chris Paul
- Dallas Mavericks