Last night in the Toronto recap thread Citizen kirbs rather innocently asked if anyone had analyzed Darren Collison's numbers as a starter this year vs. Eric Bledsoe's numbers (as a starter) last year. The question was a good one and Citizen FlyByKnight jumped all over it (as he is wont to do). I thought his research deserved its own thread. (I stitched a couple of posts together and lightly edited for clarity. - John Raffo 8:08 am, 1-26-14
In 12 games and 34.1 minutes per game as a starter last year, Eric Bledsoe averaged 14.2 points, 5.3 assists, 4.8 rebounds, 2.5 steals, and 1.3 blocks on 41/44/80. Team went 6-6. Bledsoe's TS% was 48.7%. Usage Rate was at 23.1%.
In 12 games and 33.8 minutes per game as a starter this year, Darren Collison is averaging 13.8 points, 5.8 assists, 2.8 rebounds, 1.7 steals, and 0.2 blocks on 49/45/89. Team has gone 9-3. Collison's TS% is 60.5%. Usage Rate is at 18.0%.
Also, Bledsoe had a 2.03 assist-to-turnover ratio. Collison is at 2.92 right now.
At the 46 game mark last year, Bledsoe was averaging 9.0 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.5 steals, and 0.7 blocks on 46/40/80. He had started 7 games by that point. His TS% was at 52.2 and his eFG% was at 47.9 while Usage Rate sat at 23.5%.
Compare that to Collison who is averaging 9.7 points, 3.0 assists, 2.3 rebounds, 1.1 steals, and 0.2 blocks on 47/37/86. He's started 12 games already. His TS% sits at 58.0 and his eFG% is at 51.8 while Usage Rate sits at 19.6%.
Per 36 minutes this year, Collison is averaging 15.7 points, 4.9 assists, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.8 steals while Bledsoe last year averaged 16.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 2.7 steals per 36 minutes up until this point.
If someone had to ask me what the main difference between Collison and Bledsoe was, I wouldn't point out the athleticism difference. Instead, I'd point out that Collison actually doesn't make wild decisions as often as Bledsoe does. Bledsoe would get out of control a lot of the time on the fastbreak and forget that he had to actually slow down which meant he'd just fling the ball wildly towards the rim only to have nothing happen. Collison plays under much more control offensively which is great. Plus, his shot is better. Bledsoe's shooting seemed like an outlier to me last year but I'm looking at stats now and see he's already attempted more three pointers this year (80) than he did all of last year (78) despite playing 750 fewer minutes. Kinda just think Hornacek gave him the green light to gun it. Bledsoe also changed his shot form this year but that's neither here nor there.
If there's a question about who I'd choose for this team as it's presently constructed, I'd probably go with Collison since he's a more reliable outside threat which allows there to be greater spacing in the starting lineup while Chris Paul is sidelined. If Bledsoe were in there, I think the offense would get bogged down a tad more but the defense would probably look better. I always thought Bledsoe's defense was overrated but he's definitely better than Collison in that regard. The interesting thing with Collison is that if you were to compare his stats from this season to his stats from last season, you kinda wouldn't be able to tell a difference. He's shooting the exact same percentage (47.1%) from the field with a slight uptick from deep (36.9% this year, 35.3% last year) but a slight decrease from the line (85.7% this year, 88.0% last year). Not to mention the same exact Usage Rate (19.6%).
My point is that while Collison was perceived as bad last year, and he was since you don't get replaced by Mike gotdamn James if you're playing anything remotely close to decent, the difference from last year to this year really isn't much from a statistical point of view but it is massive from an actual on-court point of view. He doesn't look lost as much. He still has his moments - i.e. that blind pass that he threw into Ross's hands in a 1-point game - but he generally looks more composed this year. I truly wonder how much Chris Paul helps him. When he started in place of Paul back during Darren's rookie year, Collison averaged 19 and 9 on 49/43/85 during those 37 games.
I didn't mean to turn this into some sort of article or FanPost about Collison and his play this year but he's pulled a night and day change. It's easy to forgot that (a) he's still just 26 years old and in his fifth year in the NBA which has consisted of four different stops and (b) Chris Paul makes all the difference in the world as a mentor. He had some talent when he came out and could do a lot of things at a pretty above-average level. I'm starting to like his fit with this team more and more and I've done a 180 on him a little bit because I was worried he'd pick up his player option for next year. Now I'm hoping he does because we kinda need him. Give him another year under Doc Rivers and Alvin Gentry while being mentored again by Chris Paul and I think Collison can actually blossom as something resembling damn good as a 27-year old point guard. Does this mean we'd keep him if he picks up his player option? No clue. In a weird way, he might turn into a very valuable trade piece if he does indeed pick up that player option which, as of right now, looks like the offseason thing to watch if Paul's health becomes an issue at another juncture of this season.