Brett Davis-US PRESSWIRE

What’s the Point? Darren Collison, That’s What! (Dallas Mavericks 2012-2013)


The Mavericks effectively played without a true backup point guard last year following the departure of J.J. Barea.  With Jason Kidd’s playing time somewhat limited and his output diminished as well as Delonte West suffering an injury that kept him out for several weeks, the Mavs had to rely on a troupe of combo guards to run the show at least part-time for much of the season.   With the failure to land Deron Williams, Steve Nash or Jeremy Lin this summer and Kidd’s subsequent departure for the Big Apple, it was anybody’s guess for a while would be the Maverick point guards this coming season.

Cuban & Co. were unsuccessful with the original plans for free agency but managed a magnificent turnaround by landing a promising group of rookies and veteran free agents, as well as one transaction largely viewed as lopsided in the Mavs favor – the trade which sent Ian Mahinmi to the Indiana Pacers in exchange for Darren Collison and Dahntay Jones.  While there was talk and interest in possibly bringing the disgruntled Jose Calderon down from the Toronto Raptors, it appears Collison will immediately be stepping into the starting point guard slot.

While Jason Kidd had a lot to offer in terms of experience and leadership and is virtually beyond compare as a floor general, his physical skills have waned to the point that losing him is more of an emotional loss than a logistical one and the Mavs will have the opportunity to take advantage of the things that Collison brings to the table.

Collison has some interesting parallels to O. J. Mayo in coming out with a high pedigree and turning heads his rookie season and then sliding into mediocrity later.  A rare four-year collegian at UCLA with numerous honors, he was considered one of the top point guard prospects in the 2009 draft.  Small in stature but with a solid all-around game, he landed with the New Orleans Hornets, where he could not have been expected to be anything more than a backup to Chris Paul.

Yet circumstances allowed him to make the most of the opportunity.    With Chris Paul out for much of the season, Collison ended up as the starter during that time and had a terrific year.  He set Hornets rookie-record 18 assists on January 30, 2010 vs. the Memphis Grizzlies and broke his own record with 20 in a victory over the Golden State Warriors later that year. In a game against the Indiana Pacers on February 19, 2010, he became only the second rookie of the 2009-2010 season to get a triple-double with 18 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 assists.

Averaging 18.8 points and 9.1 assists as a starter, he finished 4th in the NBA Rookie of the Year voting but was traded to the Indiana Pacers in August of 2010.   While he continued to start, his numbers fell considerable two years in a row and he lost his starting job to George Hill at the beginning of the 2012 playoffs and with the Pacers signing Hill to a long-term contract after the season, Collison became expendable.

The question would seem to be which Collison will show up in Dallas.  His numbers in Indiana were certainly not terrible but ended up around half of his totals as a rookie subbing for Paul.  Compared to Kidd’s numbers that isn’t a drop-off but if you have to lose Jason Kidd you hope to get a bump in other areas.  If he’s consistent with his Indiana play the Mavs won’t suffer but if he returns to his rookie form it will be a huge bonus for the Mavs and an exceptionally ironic twist for the team that lost out on plans A, B and C in this summer’s point guard replacement derby.

What should be expected from Collison?  For the first time in memory, the Mavericks have potent scorers in every position on the floor and not just the other starters.   After your primary and secondary options, presumably Dirk and O. J. Mayo, Chris Kaman and Shawn Marion are more than capable both inside and outside.  From the bench, Vince Carter, Elton Brand and a promising group of youngsters give the Mavs great offensive depth, so it would seem that the real value on this team is going to be Collision’s ability to create and dish rather than score.

Coming out of college Draft Express observed: “He has a strong skill set for a point guard, and reports are saying over the summer he has improved his ability to anticipate where teammates will be on the floor,” an ideal scenario for this Mavericks team.  He has proven to be a capable midrange and three point shooter as well, so he can hit from outside when needed.

His youth and speed should be an asset in the pick and roll, however, as well as helping on defense.  As ESPN’s Tim McMahon has stated, “Collison’s speed and quickness are his best attributes.”

While his size may be a problem with some bigger guards, the Mavericks now have a number of capable defenders so he shouldn’t have to be left to guard the league’s elite alone.  Overall, he has been solid defensively with size being the major concern.  Draft Express continued:

“Defensively, Collison really excels at the college level, playing good fundamental man-to-man defense on the perimeter, showing good anticipation in the passing lanes, playing good pressure defense when needed, and having good lateral quickness as well. He does tend to struggle at times with ball screens, not quite having the strength to get around them. Collison may not be as effective at the next level due to his size…but should be at least an above average defender because of his fundamentals and basketball IQ.”

As an added bonus, Collison is quite familiar with O. J. Mayo, having played with him in summer pickup games while Mayo was with crosstown rival USC.   Considering Dahntay Jones accompanied Darren in the trade from the Pacers, Chris Kaman and Elton Brand are also played together for the L.A. Clippers and Kaman and Dirk were together on the German national team, this newly assembled group may have a jump start on gelling as a cohesive unit.

Entering a contract year with an opportunity for a fresh start, Collison seems highly motivated to move beyond losing his starting job and a couple of early playoff exits.   While the national media and haters have viewed the new-look Mavs as a bunch of castoffs, clearly the potential is there for a talented if somewhat unpredictable dark horse to emerge.  With Collison at the helm and to some degree, with any significant changes to a team it may be uncertain exactly how things will play out.  In this case it should be interesting.  Chances are he will find a way to fit in with this rough but talented mix of youth and experience and that could lead to a similarly surprising parallel to a familiar NBA Champion of two years ago.

Collison himself concurs:

“The challenge is…when you put guys together.  For me, as a point guard trying to lead this team, I’ve got to make sure guys understand that this is a great opportunity for us to do something (the Mavs) did two years ago.”

Keep your fingers crossed.

 

 

Tags: #letsgomavs Chris Kaman Chris Paul Dahntay Jones Dallas Mavericks Darren Collison Delonte West Dirk Nowitzki Elton Brand Ian Mahinmi Indiana Pacers J.J. Barea Jason Kidd Jose Calderon Mavs NBA Champion NBA Champions New Orleans Hornets O. J. Mayo Shawn Marion Vince Carter