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30Q: Can Darren Collison solidify the PG position?

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Darren Collison is the lone point guard guaranteed a spot on the Kings roster; Can he provide the consistency Sacramento needs to finally make a run at the playoffs, or is he just a solid stopgap? 

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Sacramento Kings John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Kings fans, and Sactown Royalty in particular, have been pining for a new point guard all offseason, but Darren Collison remains locked in as the starter. While he's only entering his third year with the organization, he's outlasted six other point guards, three head coaches, and one GM. Due to a lack of consistency from the position (and organizational belief in their players, screams All-Star Isaiah Thomas), the Kings have been juggling the point guard spot for years. But now Collison is the lone point guard guaranteed a spot on the Kings roster; can he provide the consistency Sacramento needs to finally make a run at the playoffs, or is he just a solid stopgap?

Vlade Divac might think so. Despite the apparent positional need, Divac didn't use any of his three first round draft picks on point guards, instead opting to add two project big men and a shooting guard. Divac obviously didn't like the value of the classes point guards at the Kings pick spots, but the lack of a young point guard was painful in the Summer League.

Free agency offered no relief either; Rajon Rondo had an interesting 2015-16 season, but the Kings (wisely) made no shot at retaining him and didn't sign a replacement point until late August, which caused quite a few panic attacks. When Divac finally signed two point guards, they ended up being Ty Lawson (coming off multiple DUI arrested over the past few years and a dismal 2015 season) and Jordan Farmar (who got minutes in Memphis last year due to injuries but should be stickily a back-up).

So unless the Kings hit the jackpot with the Ty Lawson-rehabilitation lottery ticket, the keys are back in Collison's hands. We as a fanbase may have expected Divac to figure out the position, but either he couldn't realistically improve it with the pieces he had—a distinct possibility, what with the organization's reputation still scaring off most players—or he and Joerger think Collison can be the point guard this team needs.

Fortunately, there's some statistical backing to that idea. Due to Rondo's role as the alpha-floor general, I imagined it would be hard to base future production off of Collison's stats from last season, but his numbers tell a slightly different story. (Bolded stats are career highs).

Year

GP (GS)

MPG

APG

Assist Rate

Turn.
Rate

Usage Rate

FG%

3P%

TS%

PPG

2014-15

45 (45)

34.8

5.6

27.2%

15.2%

20.9%

47.3%

37.3%

57.4%

16.1

2015-16

74 (15)

30.0

4.3

21.7%

12.9%

19.2%

48.6%

40.1%

59.1%

14.0


While his assist rate did drop as he deferred floor general duties to Rondo, Collison's usage rate only dropped 1% below his career average. When he had the ball, he was an exceptionally efficient player, shooting the ball at a career clip while posting a career low in turnover rate. And while one might argue that these numbers came more often against second-unit defenses, Collison posted near equal numbers in 15 games as a starter; 15.5 points, 6.7 assists (and a 3/1 A/T ratio), 47.3% shooting, and a 28.7% assist rate in 37 minutes. While it was easy to forget with Rondo drawing all the attention (both positive and negative), Collison was a dang good offensive point guard last year.

That efficiency wasn't found on defense, however; Collison has never distinguished himself as a defender in Sacramento, and the numbers from last year were ugly.

Year

Opponents FG% against Collison

Opponents FG% on season

Difference

Kings DRtg. overall

Kings DRtg. w/Collison on the court

Difference

2014-15

43.7%

43.7%

0%

106.5

104.4

+2.1

2015-16

46.5%

43.5%

3.0%

106.3

107.2

-0.9


In 2014-15, Collison was statistically an average defender; opponents shot their season averages with him guarding them, and the Kings defensive rating was 2 points better with him on the court. Last year those numbers dropped, and he let players shoot 3.0% better than their season averages. Some of this might be due to the fact that often played the two-guard alongside Rondo and was forced to match up against much taller players, but whatever the reasons, he'll have to turn the numbers around. The Kings cannot continue to rely on their interior defense making up for porous perimeter defense, and if Collison is going prove this job is his, his production needs to be unilateral.

The Kings will have to wait to see if Collison can deliver; he pled guilty in early September to one count of misdemeanor domestic violence spawning from an incident in early May. Dave Joerger and his staff will have to prepare for their best guard to miss somewhere between the first few weeks to up to the first month (Former Charlotte player Jeff Taylor got a 24 game suspension in 2014 after pleading guilty to domestic violence and malicious destruction of property). Suspension aside, Collison is 29 and entering the last year of his contract; he's certainly aware of his place in the NBA, and a career-year could guarantee him one more strong contract. With the uncertainty of the PG talent next to him, the opportunity and downright need for him to produce is there. Here's hoping he makes the most of it.