They Smell Like the Future: Darren Collison

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 10, 2009 under Commentary | 6 Comments to Read

Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images.

UCLA Senior
6′1.5”, 166 lbs.
21 years old
Point guard
Projection: Late 1st round/early 2nd round

Darren Collison is a point guard.  He’s probably even a point guard’s point guard.  And though he likely won’t pan out as a star, he has plenty to offer any team in the league.

The Mavs essentially have had two workout crops: players projected to go late in the 1st or early in the 2nd round and prospects likely to go undrafted.  Collison, a fairly high-profile candidate from one of the nation’s top schools, clearly falls in the former.  To be frank, he’d be a pretty good value at the 22nd pick.  At 22 in any given year, drafting a career starter or a career second string guy is the goal.  You just want to dodge the Zoran Planinic land mines.  So despite the fact that Collison will never be an All-Star point guard, he could definitely turn out to be the rock steady point that many a championship team has leaned on in the past.  Collison, though undersized, was a tremendous defender in college.  He’s quick enough to stick with almost anyone, and his defensive focus and intensity may be unparalleled as far as point guards in this draft.  Darren Collison is also a tremendously heady basketball player, stone-cold and unshakeable in his ability to to his damn job.  Darren Collison is a point guard.  There is no confusion about his role on the basketball court or which responsibilities are his.  He runs a team and he executes the offense, and in that regard he’s a stellar prospect.

I’ve grown fond of J.J. Barea.  He slays giants with his razor sharp will alone.  But he offers a completely different package than Collison does.  Situationally, is it so bad to pack both punches?  A defensive-minded guy to come in and right the ship, and a bit of a wild card that’s capable of busting out for 20?  Having three point guards too often creates issues of confidence and opportunity, but from a rotation standpoint, I don’t see the downside in having options on the bench.  Collison is a more realistic long-term option as a potential starting point (post-Kidd) than Barea is, and offers the Mavs the ever-elusive point guard defender that they’ve been missing since Devin Harris’ departure.

Pro-Level Projections:

I’ve asked Jon Nichols of to use his Box Score Prediction System (BSPS) to project career numbers for Collison.  The values given are career averages per 36 minutes, considering that per minute statistics at least partially eliminate variables such as abnormal playing time, lack of opportunity, etc.  The projections are obviously based on Collison’s four-year career at UCLA.  For comparison’s sake, I’ve dug up some other players who have averaged similar numbers over their careers (click here for an enlarged chart):

(Note: the years indicated in the chart refer to the last year of the season played.  For examples, the 2004-2005 season will be marked 05.)

Nothing special here, but nothing to scoff at.  Antonio Daniels was a nice player during his time in Seattle, and I’ve been impressed with Ronnie Price’s production in his young career.  My money’s on Collison becoming an even better pro than any of these three.  Collison shares the defensive prowess of a young Daniels or Hunter, but is far more reliable on the offensive end in terms of his shot selection and ability to facilitate the offense.

  • Jordan

    He’s been training with BDA Sports over in El Segundo (Los Angeles). I spoke with the trainer there and he said that Collison went from max benching barely 175 to now around 225-230, without weight-lifting. He’s doing some sort of natural strength training. Good stuff you’ve got here.

  • Brian D

    And good stuff you’ve got there Jordan. Nice inside stuff!

  • Philip K

    I’m a recent graduate of UCLA. Collison will not disappoint. Like all of Howland’s players, he is a defender and a winner. I am definitely looking forward to seeing him play on my favorite team of all time: He will set the tone on defense, make insanely quick drives to the basket (filling in nicely for the loss of Devin Harris), and hopefully we’ll see the Bruin connection – lob passes to a high flying Ryan Hollins.

  • Kirk

    I’d love it if we took this guy. He’s overlooked because of his age and his weight, but the fact remains that he is a speed demon, defensive hound, and after 4 years at UCLA, he knows how to play the game. We need value at this pick, not some kid from Louisville who ‘might’ pan out.

    Howard as a no brainer in 2003, since he was the first unanimous ACC player of the year since forever. He slipped cuz everyone knew he was a pothead.

    We have to take this guy, or someone else as accomplished in college. Tape doesnt lie, and if we take a project I will scream.

  • Brian D

    I like Collison, but his ceiling is pretty low. It’s nice to know exactly what you’re getting with a draft pick, but guys like that generally don’t become anything special.

    Projects often fail, but when they do fulfill their potential, it’s an awesome sight.

    Dirk was definitely considered a project on draft day.

  • Philip K

    Brian D, what do you know about his ceiling? He has improved every year, who are you to say it won’t continue?