What happened to Darren Collison? Collison had a great rookie season playing for the New Orleans Hornets before being traded to the Indiana Pacers two seasons ago.
Collison played in 76 games during the 2009-2010 season and replaced starter Chris Paul in the lineup for 37 games as Paul suffered through an assortment of injuries.
What really caught people’s attention was how closely his statistics as a starter that season resembled Paul’s. Paul averaged 18.7 points and 10.7 assists in the 45 games he played that year. Collison averaged 18.8 points and 9.1 assists as a starter for the Hornets that season.
Those are eye-popping stats for a 21st overall pick filling in for a fifth-year veteran and All-Star.
Collison’s shooting numbers even resembled Paul’s. Paul shot .493 from the field, .409 from three and .847 from the free throw line. In his 37 starts, Collison shot .485 from the field, .429 from behind the arc, and was .852 from the charity stripe.
With numbers like that, it’s no wonder the Pacers sought to acquire Collison during the 2010 offseason. Only problem is Indiana’s coach at the time, Jim O’Brien, didn’t want to change up his offensive philosophy to play to Collison’s strengths.
Like Paul, Collison loves to push the ball and get penetration. He has a quick first step and is a great passer once he gets in the paint.
O’Brien didn’t run that kind of offense though. O’Brien wanted his team to shoot early and often, especially from behind the three point line. Teams didn’t have to worry much about the Pacers’ big men setting up in the post or Collison working the pick and roll game to get guys easy baskets.
O’Brien would be fired halfway through the 2010-2011 season in favor of assistant Frank Vogel who began to tweak the team’s offensive philosophy. This year Vogel has the ball going in the post more and has the team concentrating more on its offensive rebounding.
Vogel has preached the importance of making sacrifices to his team which may be the reason why so many players’ numbers are down across the board. Collison’s numbers are worse this year under Vogel than they were under O’Brien.
The numbers for Danny Granger, David West, Tyler Hansbrough and George Hill are also down from what they put up last season. Sure West and Hill were playing for different teams last year but they were brought in for a reason.
But Collison’s declining numbers are the most puzzling. In an offense like this one that looks to score more inside baskets then either Collison’s scoring or assists should increase rather than both numbers declining.
I guess you can’t argue with results though. Last year the Pacers just barely made it to the playoffs as an eighth seed in the East. If they can continue to play as well as they have played this season they will enter the playoffs as a fifth seed.
And that would give them a much better shot of advancing past the first round than they would facing either the Chicago Bulls or Miami Heat as a seventh or eighth seed.
In the meanwhile we are left to wonder whether Collison’s rookie numbers were a product of the system he was in, or the result of playing with less talent in New Orleans than he currently plays with in Indiana. After watching him play in three different systems in three years it’s hard to get a feel for who the real Collison is but as long as the Pacers win does it really matter?
Roosevelt Hall is an NFL Blogger for The Sport Mentalist and an NBA Blogger for The Sport Mentalist 2. He is also a Sports Reporter for Pro Sports Lives. He can be contacted at RHall_TPFB@Yahoo.com and be sure to follow him on Twitter @sportmentalist.