Darren Collison rising under Tyrone Corbin

CollisonPassing

Two months into the NBA season, Darren Collison and the Sacramento Kings are a perfect partnership.

After signing a three-year, $16 million deal in July, Collison has given the Kings a steady hand to steer  their offense and he has been effective defending opposing point guards as well.

The 27-year-old is averaging a career-high 16.3 points, six assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.7 steals in 35 minutes per game.  He is thriving, despite Sacramento’s recent changes.

“Oh without a doubt it’s been suiting me all year long,” Collison said of the Kings offense on Saturday. “I have good players around me. I’m just playing off of them, just doing what I can. I worked hard on my game all summer long, so it shouldn’t be too difficult, just go out there and just play my game. “

Such unexpected production from a player on his fifth team in six NBA seasons has been shocking, but apparently, Collison’s ceiling has yet to be reached.

Since the Kings fired head coach Michael Malone and replaced him with assistant Tyrone Corbin on December 15, Collison has taken another tremendous step forward.  One of Corbin’s primary tasks was to escalate the pace of the offense. While the majority of his roster wasn’t assembled with the faster play style in mind, it happened to be something Collison likes to do.

Observers saw Collison’s promise in his ability to run an uptempo offense from his days as a reserve with the New Orleans Hornets and more recently the Los Angeles Clippers.  But he was never able to translate it  in a feature-length capacity.

The 21st pick in the 2009 draft had the luxury of learning from one of the best fast break orchestrators in the game in Chris Paul with both the Hornets as a rookie and last season with the Clippers.  In between those two stops, Collison failed to hold onto starting jobs in both Indiana and Dallas.  But it appears that his apprenticeship under Paul is finally paying off.

At 6-foot, 160 pounds, Collison isn’t particularly strong, but he’s quick with his movements, dribbles under control and makes sound decisions with the ball.  His attributes are perfect for a player thrust into a fast paced offense, even if some of his teammates are not built for an up and down game..

Throw in a lethal midrange jumper and an above-average 3-pointer to boot, and Corbin seemed to have an ideal floor general.

The veteran laid an egg in his new head coach’s debut, but the guard has combusted into flames since. In the Kings’ last six contests, Collison is scoring 18.8 points per game on 58.2 percent shooting from the floor and has hit 15-of-24 attempts from behind the arc.

He remains effective from the free throw line (80 percent), and while he’s losing three turnovers per game, the Kings ball handler is still sharing the rock (5.5 assists per game) and leads the team in steals at two per match.

Collison has upped his scoring while taking less field goals.  Under Corbin, he’s averaging 11.2 shots per game in the six-game stretch, down from 12.5 under Malone.  And his free throw attempts have fallen from 5.6 to 4.2 per game.

The Kings starter has increased 3-point accuracy from 30.2 percent to a blistering 62.5 under Corbin.  And that is added to his already sparkling 15-of-17 (88.2 percent) on pullup jumpers this season, including 5-of-6 in his last six matches, according to NBA.com.

In Collison, the Kings have a corner piece to conduct their offense. In the Kings, Collison has a home to exploit his talents. The best may still be to come for Sacramento’s free agent prize.

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About: Rui Thomas

Rui Thomas is a writer and reporter for Cowbell Kingdom. He previously covered the Sacramento Kings and the NBA for Sports Out West. He is published by Sports Illustrated’s Truth and Rumors and Yahoo Sports NFL among others.