The Emergence of Darren Collison in Dallas
“He’s done this in other stops. I don’t know how many games he started in Indiana, but he played well there as a starter. Then they made the switch, then they made the trade. They decided to go with Hill.” – Rick Carlisle on Darren Collison
The early-season struggles of the Pacers obviously have a whole lot to do with the absence of Danny Granger. I am in no way trying to downplay anyone’s claim that the team would be playing better with Granger in the lineup. However, let us not forget that Granger is not the only member of last year’s Pacers who is not on the floor for them.
By playoff time last year it seemed apparent that at some point in the offseason the Pacers would choose between either Darren Collison or George Hill. Hill was a free agent who might demand a decent pay raise and neither player seemed to thrive while having to split minutes. At times, it felt like Pacer fans had to be a part of either Team Hill or Team Collison and they had to be willing to defend their stance.
And as you all know, the Pacers went with Hill. They gave him a $40 million contract and shipped Collison to Dallas (along with Dahntay Jones for backup center Ian Mahinmi).
The problem with Collison in Indiana seemed to be inconsistency and sometimes an inability to stay involved. He gave good effort and seemingly had a good attitude, but sometimes he just didn’t have a huge impact on the game. He was a capable scorer, but when he tried to play the role of facilitator he looked more like a bystander. Fellow 8p9s writer Tim Donahue mentioned that this was always the case for Collison in Indiana. He said that when Jim O’Brien was around, his coaching schemes were blamed, but it remained the same under Frank Vogel.
Rick Carlisle is not having the same problems with Collison, however. Of course, we are still working with a small sample size, but so far Collison is thriving in Dallas.
Before the Mavericks played the Raptors Wednesday night, Carlisle talked about what he has seen from Collison since he’s been a member of the Mavericks. “(He’s) even-tempered. He’s been aggressive. He’s made good decisions. He’s developing a feel for attacking and being aggressive offensively.”
The feeling around those watching Collison this year is beginning to be that the point guard is playing well because the leash is finally off. Whether that leash was from restrictive aspects of Vogel’s offense or simply the threat of having his starting job taken away is not exactly certain. Ironically, Jim O’Brien is now an assistant coach under Carlisle in Dallas.
Either way, Collison is the man for the Mavericks and he has been orchestrating an offense that has been surprisingly efficient without Dirk Nowitzki.
So the question is, how has Collison looked thus far in the season compared to Hill? (see chart)
|Darren Collison||George Hill|
In addition to out-producing Hill in every major statistical category except rebounds, Collison also has had two straight double doubles (points and assists). He had three all of last year for the Pacers. Hill has recorded one such double double in his five years in the NBA (and that was back in 2009). It was the only double-digit assist game of his career.
While Collison logs heavy minutes for the Mavericks, Carlisle made it clear that, at least until Nowitzki returns, the Mavs would get out and run as much as possible. With Collison leading the break, the Mavs have scored the sixth most fast-break points
in the NBA (as of yesterday). The Pacers,
on the other hand, rank 17th in that category.
Even more impressive, within this run-and-gun offense, Collison is currently ranked third in the NBA in terms of assist/turnover ratio.
After the Mavericks defeated the Raptors, Carlisle said that he expects constant energy and aggressiveness from Collison. In fact, he explained that at one point in the second half, Collison looked like he had tuned back a little bit of his aggression, especially on defense, and he pulled him out of the game. He said that he put him back in it was “no longer a problem.”
This type of freedom given to Collison has clearly allowed the Mavericks to take advantage of his full skill set. Don’t get me wrong, I do like George Hill as a basketball player and I don’t mean to disparage him. And I understand that we are not far into the NBA season and plenty of trends will change in the coming weeks and months. But I would advise you to keep an eye on Darren Collison moving forward. He doesn’t look like the same old Collison that Pacer fans are used to — and it doesn’t feel like a coincidence.