Darren Collison Deserves a Starting Role


Throughout this preseason a few starting jobs on the Sacramento Kings have been in question. In addition to the question mark alongside DeMarcus Cousins in the frontcourt, both guard spots seem to be fluid at the moment, thanks to neither Rajon Rondo or Ben McLemore playing that well.

One guard on the Kings who has been playing exceptionally well is Darren Collison. Although the signing of Rondo to that large contract makes it all but certain he’ll start the year at point, he may not deserve the spot. Both last season and this preseason, Collison has been the better player.

When Collison got hurt last year he was in the midst of a terrific season as Sacramento’s starting point guard. He averaged 16.1 points, 5.6 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game while shooting 47.3 percent from the field and 37.3 percent from three-point territory.

Darren Collison2014-154534.812.2.4733.6.373.5274.1.7883.
Rajon Rondo2014-156829.79.5.4261.3.314.4471.1.3975.

Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/18/2015.

Meanwhile Rondo managed 8.9 points, 7.9 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals. He was less efficient across the board though. Collison had a better field goal percentage, three-point percentage and free throw percentage (by far). Plus Rondo had more turnovers per game than Collison, despite playing more than five minutes less each game.

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Last season Collison just looked like the better player, and that’s carried over into the preseason. Rondo averaged 5.7 points, 5.2 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 23 minutes per game, while shooting 50 percent from the field, 20 percent from long-range and 40 percent from the charity stripe.

Collison, meanwhile, averaged 15.3 points, 5.5 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game in 26.5 minutes. He had a field goal percentage of 53.7, a three-point percentage of 43.8 and a free throw percentage of 87.1 over his six preseason contests.

Collison has outplayed Rondo, plain and simple. The one saving grace for Rondo in this situation might be that Ben McLemore has been struggling harder than anybody this preseason, and Collison’s looked capable from both guard spots.

McLemore has been awful in October so far, averaging 6.2 points, 1.2 rebounds, one assist and one steal in 20.9 minutes per game. His shooting numbers fell off a cliff–in six games he made 27.8 percent of his shots, 25 percent of his three-pointers and 76.5 percent of his free throws.

Oct 13, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Sacramento Kings guard Darren Collison (7) is defended by Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard to form an argument that keeps Collison on the bench after he completely outplayed both of Sacramento’s supposed starting guards this preseason. In years past the Kings might’ve needed his bench scoring, but with Marco Belinelli around now that isn’t as much of a concern.

It’s obvious that Collison deserves a starting job at the moment. It’s not an irrevocable decision–should he regress or one of Rondo or McLemore start to heat up again they can simply be switched back.

Healthy competition isn’t a bad thing to have either. It makes players have to step up, and stops anybody from being complacent. If George Karl wants to get the most out of his backcourt players, it might be for the best to prove that the rotation is decided by merit, not paycheck.

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