When the Clippers shipped Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler to the Phoenix Suns in a three-team trade with the Milwaukee Bucks for J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley, they upgraded to better three-point shooting and defense at the starting wing positions. But Bledsoe’s departure left an immense hole at backup point guard. With limited financial means to find a replacement -- after re-signing Matt Barnes with a portion of their midlevel exception, the Clippers had approximately $1.9 million of it remaining -- they faced the possibility of signing a limited veteran or inexperienced young commodity. But somehow, perhaps by way of hometown discount, the Clippers turned their miniscule cap space into a two-year, $3.8 million deal for Darren Collison, a 25-year-old point guard who's started 219 of the 296 games he's played in his four-year career. While Collison and Bledsoe have inherently different styles of play -- and make no mistake, Bledsoe is clearly the more talented player -- Collison can provide similar value within the confines of his new and more appropriate role as the Clippers’ second-unit leader. Collison, a Rancho Cucamonga native and UCLA alum, was most productive as a rookie during the 2009-10 season with the New Orleans Hornets when, under the tutelage of Chris Paul, he averaged 12.4 points, 5.7 assists and 1.0 steals to go along with 40 percent shooting from beyond the arc. With Paul limited to just 45 games because of a knee injury, Collison started 37 games and, at times, was as effective as any floor general in the league. Since his initial success, Collison has been miscast in starting roles with the Indiana Pacers and Dallas Mavericks, leading to an overall decrease in his scoring, shooting efficiency and general productivity. As Paul’s backup, though, Collison will have considerably less pressure to succeed. He’ll play 10 to 20 minutes a night, depending on the matchup, and have less offensive responsibility while playing alongside new backcourt mate Jamal Crawford. At his core, Collison is an open-court player, not unlike Bledsoe, with 29.2 percent of his offensive possessions occurring in transition situations. His devastating speed allows him to get to the rim before opponents can react, and his finishing ability has improved to an above-average level for a point guard (66.9 percent shooting at the rim). Collison is more of a traditional point guard than Bledsoe, with a higher career assist percentage (28.4) and lower turnover percentage (17.3). Though he doesn’t have elite court vision -- he’s prone to tunnel vision on drives and creating for himself first -- Collison is the better decision-maker and safer bet offensively. He’s a more efficient shooter, with a career 54.7 true shooting percentage, and shoots 86.2 percent from the free-throw line.
Collison could be an offseason steal for Clippers
ESPN Los Angeles | Jul 19