It’s kill or be killed in the Wild West, as Butch Cassidy can attest.
Darren Collison is well aware after appearing for the Los Angeles Clippers last season. Regional hazards didn’t deter the veteran from re-signing in the division, but now the 27-year-old will face his biggest high-stakes test. How will a part-time backup the last two seasons fare with the driver’s keys in a Pacific Division featuring some of the league’s best at his position?
We compared the projected starters at point guard in the Pacific Division.
*MPG = minutes per game, PPG = points per game, APG = assists per game, RPG = rebounds per game, SPG = steals per game, TPG = turnovers per game, PER = player efficiency rating
**Statistics in italics are Pacific Division leaders.
Darren Collison – SAC
Career stats: 28.7 MPG, 11.9 PPG, 4.9 APG, 2.7 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 2.2 TPG, 15.7 PER
2013-14 stats (LAC): 25.9 MPG, 11.4 PPG, 3.7 APG, 2.4 RPG, 1.2 TPG, 1.7 SPG, 16.2 PER
Outlook: When the Sacramento Kings replaced Isaiah Thomas with Collison, the team opted away from the firecracker in favor of a steady hand. Collison will be asked to run the playbook, hit open shots as the third or fourth option, initiate the break and disrupt opponents’ offenses at the top of the arc with his stout on-ball coverage. By not asking to do as much, the Kings may get more.
Stephen Curry – GSW
Career stats: 35.6 MPG, 20.3 PPG, 6.7 APG, 4.1 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 3.2 TPG, 20.3 PER
2013-14 stats: 36.5 MPG, 24.0 PPG, 8.5 APG, 4.3 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 3.8 TPG, 24.1 PER
Outlook: Curry is the Golden State Warriors’ foundation, and possibly the best volume shooter in NBA history. The player drafted three spots after Tyreke Evans can score anywhere within 35 feet of the basket, and possesses the handles to break down any overeager challenger. Curry spills the ball at an alarming rate and his defense is often a point of criticism, but who doesn’t look back at the 2009 draft and shake their head for passing on him?
Goran Dragic – PHO
Career stats: 24.5 MPG, 11.5 PPG, 4.5 APG, 2.5 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 2.1 TPG, 17.1 PER
2013-14 stats: 35.1 MPG, 20.3 PPG, 5.9 APG, 3.2 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 2.8 TPG, 21.4 PER
Outlook: Dragic was groomed by the Phoenix Suns as Steve Nash’s successor, and a few detours later it’s safe to say he’s made his mentor proud. Last year was his first season cracking the 20-point threshold, and he did it with remarkable efficiency from the floor (50.5 field goal, 40.8 3-point percentage). With Eric Bledsoe serving as the stopper against the best opposing backcourt player, Gragic is free to slice-and-dice the defense and share facilitating duties with his running mate.
Jeremy Lin – LAL
Career stats: 27.3 MPG, 11.9 APG, 4.8 APG, 2.6 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 2.6 TPG, 15.5 PER
2013-14 stats (HOU): 28.9 MPG, 12.5 PPG, 4.1 APG, 2.6 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 2.5 TPG, 14.3 PER
Outlook: We all thought we were losing our minds during “Linsanity,” but the month-long stretch in 2012 only served to create otherworldly, unrealistic expectations for Lin. The well-traveled 26-year-old improved his 3-pointer last year (35.8 percent) to go along with his strong finishing ability and dribble penetration. Lin remains an afterthought on defense and his preferred ball-dominant style will take a back seat to Kobe Bryant, as it did with James Harden.
Chris Paul – LAC
Career stats: 26.4 MPG, 18.6 PPG, 9.9 APG, 4.4 RPG, 2.4 SPG, 2.4 TPG, 25.6 PER
2013-14 stats: 35.0 MPG, 19.1 PPG, 10.7 APG, 4.3 RPG, 2.5 SPG, 2.3 TPG, 25.9 PER
Outlook: There’s a few reasons why Collison sat behind this guy. Paul is the best point guard in the NBA, and his court vision, basketball IQ and skill at setting up teammates may only be rivaled by LeBron James. Paul saves his scoring outbursts for special occasions, when the 10-year veteran can use a lethal floater, stop-and-pop or deep triple. Add to that his tenacious perimeter defense and eye for passing lanes, and you have the point guard you wish was still your teammate.
The West is as dangerous as ever. Where do you rank Collison?
Statistical data provided by basketball-reference.com