Darren Collison’s offensive defense overshadows his scoring ability

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 27: Darren Collison
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 27: Darren Collison /

Darren Collison’s defense is practically non-existent, but his offense should be fun to watch this season with the Indiana Pacers.

Darren Collison represents the transition into the Indiana Pacers rebirth more than anyone else on the roster. The 29-year-old is on a two-year deal that is only partially guaranteed in 2018-19, meaning the Pacers aren’t locked up with Collison beyond this upcoming season.

While this is a transitional season for the organization, there is still basketball to be played. Collison is the expected starter at point guard, but what will that look like?

Probably something like last season, but it could be worse on at least one side of the ball. Collison is a smaller guard known more for his offense than his defense. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

We know Collison’s defense is bad, but we really need to properly calibrate our understanding to get a clear picture. A good baseline in this regard is comparing him to last season’s starting point guard, Jeff Teague.

Darren Collison (right), vs Jeff Teague in defensive spot-up situations by percentile. (via NBA Math)
Darren Collison (right), vs Jeff Teague in defensive spot-up situations by percentile. (via NBA Math) /

Teague’s defense was far from perfect, but there was an effort made, which can’t be said for Collison as often. What’s troubling when looking at the two’s defense is in the two situations they faced the most — spot-up shooting and covering the pick and roll ball handler — is Collison woefully incapable of covering either.

In spot-up situations, Teague was above average while Collison is in the bottom of the NBA in that situation — the 18.7th percentile, for you fellow stat nerds. Neither was great in the pick and roll either, but Teague still holds the edge in those plays. Collison offers almost nothing on the defensive side of the ball while at least Teague kept an eye on shooters.

In the chart to the right, Collison is the pink bar and Jeff Teague’s defensive percentile is represented by the brown bar.

The question with Collison — if the Pacers want to win games — is if his offense can overcome his defensive inefficiencies.

The bad news according to NBA Math is that Collison didn’t do that last season with the Sacramento Kings. Without getting into the weeds, NBA Math calculates that last season Collison surrendered more points when he was on the floor than he gave, and was below average in this regard. Sacramento was better with him on the floor than not, but that still left the Kings on the wrong side of the scoreboard.

I assume this will be true again this season, but it is worth noting those numbers come from Collison’s time on a Kings team in turmoil. He isn’t going to magically get better in Indiana, but he may be in a better situation this season.  Perhaps Myles Turner and Thad Young will erase Collison’s mistake more than his teammates in Sacramento did.

That’s a very big if, however.

While the frontcourt still has Myles and Thad, the rest of the lineup was overhauled. Glenn Robinson III might start at shooting guard, but another poor defender ‚— Bojan Bogdanovic — is expected to start at small forward.

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That’s not to say Collison won’t be fun to watch on offense. That’s where you hope he brings value to the team. He’ll need his teammates to pick up the slack defensively, but scoring on offense shouldn’t be an issue for Collison.

Collison’s weaknesses shouldn’t be over thought this season as Indiana’s roster turnover will roll into next offseason with plenty of cap space to work with. It, unfortunately, makes this season dead on arrival but at least Collison’s offense should be fun to watch.

Next: Love/Hate Series: Cory Joseph

And if neither Collison or Cory Joseph is capable of taking the helm of the Indiana Pacers, maybe we’ll get to see Point Lance after all.