Darren Collison is expected to sign his new contract with the Sacramento Kings soon. The team has reportedly offered the 26-year-old point guard a three-year, $16 million deal.
Collison will join the Kings in Las Vegas on Saturday where they are participating in Summer League, according to News 10's Sean Cunningham.
How did you see this offseason playing out for Collison? Were you sad to see him go?
Collison's Clippers contract always seemed like a 'reputation rehab' assignment where he signed below his market value in an attempt to increase his stock -- and that's exactly how it played out. We knew he'd opt out, and we knew the Clippers would not be willing to spend as much as another team for his services. Without holding his Bird rights, the Clippers would be forced to pay him all or part of the mid-level exception to compete price-wise, and they just had higher priorities for the mid-level exception than a backup point guard. Prior to the start of free agency, I thought there was a very slim chance that Collison might take bi-annual exception type money for a chance to stay in LA and earn his early Bird rights with the team -- but when those first deals starting coming down for the likes of Shaun Livingston, Avery Bradley and Jodie Meeks, it was obvious that DC was going to take a much bigger payday somewhere else. We're sad to see him go for certain, but it was inevitable. And I'm hopeful that his former college roommate Jordan Farmar will be a pretty good fit in that backup point guard role.
The Kings have reportedly given Collison the keys to the starting position. We know he filled in for Chris Paul for a stretch last season and played well. Do you think he can be a legitimate starter in the league moving forward though?
This is the real question with DC. The bottom line is that Sacto will be his third shot as an NBA starter. I thought he was a great pickup for the Pacers, where he eventually was made expendable by George Hill. But when he lost his starting job to friggin' Mike James in Dallas, you really had to wonder. Rick Carlisle is a tough guy to work for, but he's also a great coach and a winner -- and he picked a 37-year-old who'd essentially been out of the league for three years over DC. Yikes. Collison is a scoring point ... and not a great distributor. Can he run a team over the course of 82 games? Carlisle didn't think so. He's got plenty of talent -- there's little question that he's among the 30 most talented players with a point guard skill set and a point guard body, so that sounds like a starting NBA point guard. My gut is that he's a 'legitimate' starter in that he's top 30, but he might be better off the bench as a change of pace guy. We'll see if he improves as a floor leader. A year under Doc Rivers and another year with Paul couldn't have hurt.
The Kings want more ball movement and defense out of the point guard position. How does Collison stack up in those areas? Do you think he will continue to get better or is he close to his ceiling?
If the priorities were defense and ball movement, this may not be Pete D'Alessandro's magnum opus. Collison attacks the rim well, he can get his own shot, he's got decent range -- but ball movement and distribution are not exactly his strongest suits. He has averaged 6.1 assists per 36 on his career, and that was down to 5.2 with the Clippers (where admittedly, he played quite a bit of shooting guard and was asked to score on the second unit). Those are comparable assists/per 36 numbers to little Isaiah. Defensively, he can be an effective ball hawk, and he manages not to let his size be too much of a problem (he shut down James Harden in the fourth quarter of a game in March) but he's not great in rotation and gets caught cheating a bit too often. Still, he's a pretty good on-ball defender. I think physically, he's pretty close to his ceiling, but team defense is definitely something that continues to improve with experience, so he can get better there.
There is a lot of controversy in Sacramento over this move because of the implications it will have on Isaiah Thomas. The whole thing is largely related to money, but from an outsiders' perspective how do you see Collison's fit with the Kings?
Isaiah Thomas tortured the league to the tune of 20/6 last season, but I watched him hang 29 on the Clippers in a remarkable performance -- when he was still coming off the bench. I think I still have some residual doubt -- and others may as well -- as to whether his 2013-14 season is sustainable; it's just hard to believe that a guy that size, the last pick in the draft, who wasn't exactly a massive star in the Pac-12, can continue to do what he did.
Without really crunching the Kings' cap numbers, I certainly get it. We'll have to wait and see what another team is going to pay Isaiah, but when you see the contracts being thrown at Avery Bradley and Gordon Hayward, you have to assume it's going to be a lot of money. In that context, I think Collison makes a ton of sense. My gut tells me that tying up $25 million-plus in a long-term commitment to a core of Cousins and Thomas would have doomed the Kings for a while. I just ask myself if that's a $25-million duo. Collison, as a solid piece at a somewhat reasonable price (at least it's seeming reasonable in comparison in the current market) is a better choice. I guess I was supposed to try to ignore the money aspect, but you just can't.
How is Collison in terms of a locker room guy? DeMarcus Cousins is obviously a strong personality and isn't shy about calling his teammates out. How do you think Collison will take those moments?
He was certainly popular in the Clippers locker room, which was extraordinarily close. Of course, Chris Paul was the locker room leader, and he's earned a bit of deference as compared to Boogie. Doc Rivers wasn't afraid to chew on Collison, but he also gave him a ton of responsibility. Collison responded well to both. But chemistry is a tricky thing -- I think Collison can be a positive influence in the Sacto locker room, but you probably know better than I that the mix remains volatile.
What areas of Collison's game need improving and what areas can you always rely on him for?
We've touched on a lot of these already -- he's not the best distributor, not the best decision-maker, not the best team defender. Of course, when you're talking about the Clippers, he's being compared to literally the best distributor, best decision-maker, etc. So it's a high bar. He's at his best when he's aggressive, breaking down his defender, getting to the rim, and he's very good at all of that. He can push the tempo and get out in transition with the best of them. It's worth noting that while the I suggested earlier that he might be best off the bench as a change of pace guard, he did start 35 games for the Clippers last season at both guard spots, and his numbers were better across the board as a starter. So I think (and indeed hope) that he's going to do a good job for the Kings.
Lastly, do you guys want one of our 47 power forwards?
Kind of, yeah. In fact, we miss Reggie Evans around here. You have Acy and his beard now -- you don't even need Reggie.