Darren Collison may not have been the Dallas Mavericks' Plan A in the 2012 NBA offseason, or their Plan B or Plan C for that matter, but he’s as good a fit for the Mavs’ point guard needs as any player they were likely to acquire this summer.
His two years spent with the Indiana Pacers belie his potential as an impact player. As we saw in his rookie season, Collison thrives in the pick-and-roll, where his quick decision-making and feel for the half-court game are highlighted.
In contrast, the Pacers’ offense was predicated on two things: spreading the floor with shooting at the wings and dumping the ball into Roy Hibbert.
This approach worked for Indiana—for the most part. They finished eighth in the regular season in offensive efficiency by scoring 103.5 points per 100 possessions (via HoopData). But when a smaller and faster Miami Heat team challenged them to exploit their superior size in the playoffs, the Pacers failed, time and time again, to establish an interior presence.
For whatever virtues and flaws Indiana’s offense has, it was clear that Collison was a fish out of water. He looked uninvolved in Indiana’s Octopus attack; his confidence in his shot and his abilities as a distributor waned as his usage rate fell (17.0 in 2011-12, the lowest of his career), which led the Pacers to trade for combo guard George Hill and ultimately ship Collison out this summer.
Once you turn the page to Dallas, however, you see the possibilities for a resurgence out of the 24-year-old point guard.
In 2011-12, Dallas Mavericks ranked 19th in pick-and-roll efficiency on plays where the rolling man was the designated scorer (.94 points per possession). Contrast that with their 2010-11 championship season, when they were ranked sixth in the league with 1.08 points per possession on pick-and-roll man plays, and the room for improvement becomes evident (via Synergy Sports).
The iconic Jason Terry-Dirk Nowitzki two-man game stalled out last year, and whether you blame it on Dirk’s poor conditioning or Terry’s lack of preparation, it’s clear that Dallas needed to change something—if they hope to notch another deep playoff run in the absence of a proven star like Deron Williams or Dwight Howard, they will live or die by Nowitzki’s efficiency as a scorer in both isolation and facilitated plays.
To accomplish that, the Mavericks may have to unleash something closer to the 2009-10 New Orleans Hornets Darren Collison, who averaged 18.8 points and 9.1 assists over 37 games as a starter, and shot remarkably well at 48.5 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from three (via Yahoo!), in an offense that relied almost entirely on the pick-and-roll.
On top of his offensive fit, Collison’s intangibles could be what Dallas is looking for as well.
He was a four-year college player at UCLA, which makes him experienced beyond his NBA years. And he’s a big-game player, having led the Pacers in playoff player efficiency rating (23.2) last year (via Basketball Reference).
As the Mavericks look to tool up with experience to help Nowitzki win now, and youth to carry over into the post-Dirk era, Collison packages both qualities as well as any point guard could have reasonably hoped to acquire.