The Point Problem: Darren Collison

The Pistons' big problem is and will remain the roster's number one priority: bigs. With the draft soon approaching, we're all focused on big men who can be plugged into this lineup and help this team get back into the playoffs. However, as discussed earlier, Detroit needs to consider an upgrade at the point. While this isn't the most pressing need, upgrades must be considered now while the Pistons have the trade chips and the draft picks that could facilitate the right upgrade.

Earlier this month, we explored the free agent class and the trade options that could improve our team at point guard. During that early research, DBB's own senior scout Bearded Thundar examined just what Darren Collison could bring to this team. While yours truly would have loved to bring this to you sooner, a move across the country tossed a wretched wrench in the proverbial schedule. I've arrived, and now BT's brilliant research has done the same.

"I don't want to be just an offensive player, I want to play defense."

Those are the words Darren Collison used to describe his goals for the NBA, stating that he believes he can guard just about any other point guard in the league because of his quickness and commitment to full court basketball. That's one category that the expeditious Collison has already superseded LeBron, who if you notice, prefers to guard the other team's worst player in order to avoid foul trouble. In addition, he pointed out that when he was playing for UCLA, his coach demanded that they play team basketball and have attention to detail. While many players claim that, I think that by the end of this preview you will find those words uphold to the truest point of the mountain the young man has ascended.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you Darren Collison:

6'1"
160 pounds
extremely quick
quite the leaper (can dunk)
a bit turnover prone
athletic hands
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJo9aDjEZDs

Strengths:
Unlike DeMarcus Cousins, you cannot easily find Darren in the paint. In fact, half the time when he drives, he seems to disappear around a crowd of men twice his size. But that is what makes him so special, even when it seems that he is trapped in a sauna with 3 massive, sweaty, rampaging guys, the ball seems to magically float between someone's legs into the hands of Emeka Okafor for an easy dunk. For you see, while many NBA players can jump through the roof or outrun the falling US economy, only the truly creative ones are tagged as "special."

This table includes all the games during his first run as a starter. The game that really stands out is the highlighted one, where he had a true shooting percentage of 75%, netting 22 points and 11 assists. This is because like Stuckey, he has an uncanny ability to get to the rim. Where they separate is that Collison, having played for a major college, knows how to outsmart the second line of defense. When someone rotates over to the key, Collison dumps the ball off to Okafor (either via the bounce pass or ally-oop). When the defender sticks with Okafor, he either lays it in for an easy layup or explodes with a ferocious throw down. And when he cannot find his way to the rim, he has 3 effective options: utilize his pull-up jumper, push-off with a smooth floater or snap the ball to either a posting David West or spotting up Peja/Thornton.

On top of mean, I calculated the standard deviation and normality of the data (based off the chi-squared test). He has a relatively small deviation, only 4.5 points and 2 assists. This points to consistency in his style of play. I have not calculated Stuckey's standard deviation, but I would be willing to bet it's quite large, seeing how he can scored 30 one night and then 15 the next. The normality test is essentially 1, meaning that the data is consistent - no outliers or in essence, all data is accounted for.

These numbers are from his second stint as a starter, and they are up in every category but rebounds and free throws - and we are not talking small gains. Averaging 19 points and 10 assists, he was putting up CP3 numbers. In fact, he was much more efficient than Paul ever was (his best year, he had a true shooting percentage of .534). Now in this case, the deviation is also worse - but that is explainable by his rapid improvement as he slowly took over as team leader. Highlighted are his career highs, which include 1 triple double, scoring 35 points and delivering 20 assists. I remember February 28th, it was against Dallas. Kidd just could not stop anything Collison tried; had David West remembered that he is supposed to be a good player, they would have easily won that game. Most impressive is 80% true shooting percentage when he scored 35 points. In addition, he kept his word about being defense, garnering 1.5 steals per game.

The amazing thing is that he has done all of these things without getting superstar calls. Averaging a pathetic 3 free throw attempts per game, he is achieving success almost entirely off skill - not off David Stern's deep pockets. This leads me to think that Collison will improve quite a bit in the future.

Weaknesses:

To be honest, Collison is so under the radar that there is not much information on him yet. And unlike Kentucky, the Hornets were rarely ever nationally broadcasted, so I have not been able to see him play as much as I would have liked.

However, a few things do come to mind. The first being pace. Collison tends to play at a hundred miles an hour, Detroit simply is not built to play at that pace. But more importantly, that means that some of his statistics are a bit inflated. The fact that Chris Paul put up better numbers while playing in a half court system shows that Collison is not on his level yet, and possibly never will be. But still, for a rookie, his prowess cannot be denied, and there is plenty of reason to believe that he is smart enough to learn he will learn in the future.

Also because he plays at such a fast pace, his turnovers are amplified. While he had a better than 2:1 assist to turnover ratio, getting 4 per 40 minutes is not what you want to see out of your point guard. But once again, he still very young, very talented, and very smart. This should improve in the future.

Lastly size could be an issue in the future. I am not talking about height, but rather weight - he is only a measly 160 pounds. Because he went rather under the radar this year, teams did not seem to force the issue. Next year people will likely try to post him up more, akin to how Stuckey would have stretches of dominance, but once teams learned how to cut off his drives, he seemed to struggle. However, true to his word, he was in fact a pretty effective defender.

Here are the statistics of some of the better guards he face (Hill=blue, Curry=red, Rondo=green, Chauncey=purple and D-Will=yellow):

As you can see, against the best point guards in the league he only gave up 15 and 6.5 with a true shooting percentage of 50%. All the %s are a bit high, overall he did a very good job. Only Williams was able to get all of his teammates involved (averaging 10.5 assists), so it looks like his hands are pretty effective.

Immediate thoughts:

To be honest, if Dumars should somehow pull off this trade, Collison will have instantly become likely the best talent Detroit has had since Grant Hill. I am not sure if it was Chris Paul rubbing off on him, or if he simply knew what to do with the ball coming into the league, but he seems to have a lot of Isiah's creativity. Not to mention, he's a tough kid, just look at the first photo.

If I were in charge of the Pistons, getting Collison would be my number 2 priority. First priority would be capitalizing off the draft; we need a center and this is probably our best shot at one for the next 3-5 years. But next in line we need a point guard, and this could be one of the very few times that a player of this caliber would be actually within grasp (and that is solely because of CP3). The Hornets need cap space and a legitimate small forward (Peja is falling apart). I would have no problem giving them Tay and a 2009 rookie in exchange for Peja, Collison and a second rounder. Better yet, since they are about to be sold, if they want us to take Emeka's contract off our hands, that's killing 2 birds with one very efficient stone. But once again, that's only if I was in charge.

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