Five years after leading UCLA to its third straight Final Four appearance, Darren Collison is returning home. The Rancho Cucamonga native signed a two-year deal with the Los Angeles Clippers and will, once again, backup Chris Paul.
During his rookie season in the NBA, Collison backed up Paul as a member of the New Orleans Hornets and did an admirable job, scoring 12.4 points per game and dishing out 5.7 assists. While Collison might not see as many minutes as he has throughout his career, if he can put up similar numbers, the Los Angeles Clippers will be in good shape.
The UCLA product realizes that, while his role will be different, his goals are in line with the rest of the players on the roster, according to NBA.com:
I felt like playing with the Clippers was an opportunity to win now...I couldn’t care less how old I am or how young I am, I want to win now. Regardless, if I come off the bench or however many minutes they want to play me, I want to be on a championship team.
So how can Darren Collison improve the Clippers?
It all starts with his ability to run an offense. For as much press as Eric Bledsoe received the previous two seasons, his major weakness was his inability to consistently run the offense. With Collison running the point for the second unit, the Clippers should be able to play towards everyone’s strengths.
That's the theory anyway.
Jamal Crawford will obviously be relied upon to handle the scoring load, but Collison’s vision and ability to connect from the perimeter should allow the floor to be more balanced than it was when Bledsoe directed the offense. Collison is a career 36 percent shooter from deep and recorded a 2.4 assist-to-turnover ratio compared to Bledsoe’s 1.7.
Across the board, Collison rates better offensively than Bledsoe.
Furthermore, Collison is a solid defender and should be able to help maintain the torrid defensive pressure that the second unit applied last season. Expect Doc Rivers to use Collison’s speed and athleticism to pressure the ball, much like he did in Boston with Avery Bradley.
From all accounts, the team likes what they have seen from Collison on both ends of the court. As NBA.com reported, Blake Griffin has been especially effusive in his praise of the Clippers' new backup point man:
Every day when we’re playing pickup and I see D.C. (Collison) walk in, I’m like, "I can’t believe this guy’s our backup point guard"...His speed, right away, is what makes him so dangerous. But I think he can really defend. He’s really going to put some pressure [on opposing point guards], doing stuff that E-Bled kind of did. And also he’s really looking to pass every time down. He’s not a guy who looks for his shot a lot, but he can score.
Another advantage that Darren Collison will have is the plehtora of shooters that will comprise the Clippers’ second unit. With the additions of Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick, Doc Rivers now can choose to combine Collison, Crawford and Matt Barnes with either Redick or Dudley.
Matt Barnes agreeing to re-sign helps makes this versatility possible. He is more than capable of playing power forward in a small lineup, which would allow Rivers to spread the floor with Crawford and Redick or Dudley.
Collison is going to have plenty of weapons to dish the ball to, and that should make his job much easier.
Truth be told, the blueprint for Collison to thrive with the Los Angeles Clippers is already in front of him. Much like he did as a rookie, Collison needs to mimic Chris Paul as much as possible. Create for your shooters, get your bigs involved in pick-and-rolls and play solid defense.
There will be ups and downs, as there usually is when learning a new system with a new group of teammates. However, Collison has performed well at every level when he has had weapons around him.
As long as he is able to balance the ebbs and flows that come with playing a new role on a new team, Collison should be everything Doc Rivers wants from a backup point guard.