In a free agency focused but failing to convince Deron Williams to Dallas, Darren Collison was a bit of a disappointment from the very start.
But there was still a lot to like about Collison -- his speed and transition game brought a new aspect to the point guard position that Jason Kidd could never provide, and his ability to drive and kick would seem to compliment well with Dirk Nowitzki, O.J. Mayo, and even new acquisitions Elton Brand and Chris Kaman.
How he got here
Collison's arrival in Dallas came out of nowhere, it seemed. Indiana, his home of shopped him and Dahntay Jones for backup center Ian Mahinmi, who many expected to leave the Mavericks anyway. Regardless of how Collison's season, it really was a solid move to move a redundant player (Mahinmi was just eating up more efficient Wright's minutes)
His 2012-13 season
As excellent and prevalent as statistics have become in the NBA, this is one example where they don't tell the whole story. Just looking at his statline, Darren Collison was an average to slightly above average starting point guard for the Dallas Mavericks. He shot well from the field and was capable behind the line, and though his assist-to-turnover ratio was lower than you'd like from a starting point guard, he kept it over 2-to-1. His PER of 16.3 seemed to mostly validate this analysis.
But what the statistics don't show is that Collison played a dumb brand of basketball -- ESPECIALLY in the fourth quarter of close games. After watching Jason Kidd play the position for five years, the drop-off was so painful it hurt to watch.
Occasionally throughout the season, we would see comments from national writers wondering why Collison seemed to lack Carlisle's trust. Watching the games, the problem was that Collison wasn't a steady hand
Outside of untimely wild turnovers or rushed shots, Collison did do a lot of good for the Mavericks. His transition game, accounting for 29% of his offensive output, resulted in 1.2 points per possession (via MySynergySports), and when paired with O.J. Mayo's transition ability, could become a game changer.
Collison was also a deadly shooter from the corners, hitting 21 of 45 combined (46.7%). Later in the year, the Mavericks offense ran an occasional designed play looking to get Collison a corner three pointer -- unfortunately, the offense in general was never set up to emphasize that shot.
But despite his great speed, Collison also was not as effective as would be hoped when driving the ball. His tendency to turn the ball over diminished a solid drive-and-kick game, and he lacked the size to be a great finisher. He shot just 56.6% at the rim, and when you remember that a fifth of his offense was transition, he surely had easier looks than the average guard.
When it comes down to it, youth is an acceptable excuse for many point guards who make a lot of mental mistakes, as teams know it will improve over time. However, the 25-year-old Collison was a four-year college player and is moving into his fifth NBA season. He's played 296 NBA games and started 219 of them. No wonder Indiana was so willing to let him walk.
At this point in his career, Collison's mistakes look to be part of his nature. For a backup point guard, that's fine -- J.J. Barea was hardly a "steady hand" at the point guard position, and with Jason Kidd in front of him, he didn't have to be. His strengths warrant him a spot on an NBA roster. But for a team determined on getting Dirk to June one last time, Collison as a starting point guard just doesn't work out.
What this means going forward
With the drafting of Shane Larkin and the signing of Gal Melek, it's unlikely Darren Collison returns. He commands more money than the minimum, and so despite his familiarity with the Mavericks franchise, it just doesn't seem like a good fit anymore. Like said previously, he will find another team with more patience (or a better role, off the bench) for his shortcomings, but it's very unlikely that that place is Dallas.
So long, Darren. For what it's worth, your crazy three pointer against Oklahoma City is still awesome.