Darren Collison had the unfortunate duty of replacing a fan favorite in Isaiah Thomas this season. He faced an uphill battle from day one, but his early play made the loss of Thomas more palatable for Kings fans.
The 27-year-old point guard instantly became the Kings’ No. 3 scoring option behind DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay, but a core injury shelved him for the team’s final 33 games and 37 contests overall.
Collison is under contract for another two seasons at a reasonable $5 and $5.2 million.
Collison is an above average ball handler, but like his predecessor, he is more of a score-first guard than a true point. He averaged a career-high 16.1 points in 34.8 minutes per contest on the season. His 47.3 percent field goal shooting was impressive, as was his 37.3 percent shooting from behind the arc.
Collison can finish at the rim, where he shot 56.7 percent. His mid-range shot between 10 feet and the arc was solid (47.5 percent) and he loves the baseline 3-ball (48 percent). His attack mentality led to 4.1 free throw attempts per game, although he hit a career-worst 78.8 percent from the charity stripe.
Another positive is that Collison plays extremely well off the ball. Unfortunately he didn’t get to show what he can do because Ramon Sessions played very poorly in a reserve guard role and rarely played alongside Collison.
With Andre Miller or Ray McCallum on the roster, Collison could slide to the off-guard on occasion where his skill as a shooter from the corners can be utilized to space the floor.
As a defender, Collison applied excellent ball pressure and has a penchant for picking his opponents’ pockets (1.5 steals per game). On a team that struggled defensively, especially from long range, Collison held his opponents at bay. He allowed his opponent to shoot at their season average overall and held them two percent below the norm from long range.
The Kings touted Collison as something he is not when they inked him to a three-year deal last summer. He is a floor general, but not the pass-first player they promoted. His 27.2 assist percentage matched his career average and was exactly five percent lower than what Isaiah Thomas posted for the club the previous season.
Maybe it was out of necessity, but Collison played the exact same role Thomas did the year before, but wasn’t quite as good on the offensive end. On the plus side, his usage percentage of 20.9 was well below the 26.3 percent Thomas posted.
While Collison was effective from long range, mid-range and at the rim, he struggled from the 3-10 feet area, hitting just 21.6 percent of his attempts from this range. Developing a floater in the offseason is a must.
On the defensive end, Collison struggled with bigger guards, allowing his opponent to shoot 6.9 percent higher than their average from inside 10 feet and 8.6 percent higher inside of six feet. He handles the smaller, quicker guards well, but he is more of an agitator than a lock-down defender.
Lastly, Collison missed 37 games due to a variety of bumps and bruises. He missed the final 30 games of the season with a core injury and at 6-foot, 160 pounds, there has to be some concern about him playing nearly 35 minutes a night going forward.
Losing Collison when the Kings did was a huge blow, not just for the 2014-15 season, but for next season as well. George Karl loves Collison’s style of play, but he didn’t get to see him take the court firsthand. In theory, Collison is perfect for the dribble drive motion offense and Collison’s ball pressure will please Karl greatly.
Coming into the 2015-16 season, it is likely that Collison will once again be the Kings starter, but nothing is certain. The top end of the draft is filled with bigs and playmaking guards, and the Kings promise to be active in both free agency and on the trade market. The one positive is that Collison has played both as a starter and a reserve in his career if someone else is added to the mix.
In a season filled with disappointments, Collison was a bright spot both on and off the court. He fit seamlessly with Sacramento’s building blocks and his absence was felt greatly. The former UCLA star is likely a piece to the puzzle going forward, while the Kings look to improve greater positions of need.
Cowbell Kingdom would like your opinion. How do you grade Collison’s season?