It’s easy to forget that Darren Collison had excelled as Chris Paul’s backup once before in New Orleans, and that he exceeded all expectations when Paul was befallen by injury. This made Collison a valuable piece and he was moved (basically) for Trevor Ariza, who was coming off a career year in Houston. Collison had a couple of good but not great years for the Pacers who traded him and Dahntay Jones for Ian Mahnimi of Dallas. By the pieces of this trade you could assume his value had dropped. After one season in Dallas he was picked up by the Clippers to back up the player he had come into the league under.

Collison is now 26 and is averaging a respectable 9 PPG, 2.9 assists in about 20 minutes. In his last three games (two as a starter, one with extended minutes after the Paul shoulder injury), he has averaged 18.9 PPG and 5.6 APG, while shooting a tremendous 66% from the field. The Clippers have won two of the three, the loss coming against the San Antonio Spurs in a blowout. If the Clippers can take two out of three with Collison at the helm, it will more than tread water until Paul’s return.

These next several weeks of increased playing time for Collison can have a lasting effect for the Clippers. Unlike Reggie Jackson, Collison has already been a full time starter, and despite decent production, teams have decided to cut ties because he wasn’t the answer for them. In Los Angeles, while JJ Reddick is hurt, Collison has the benefit of playing with another primary ball-handler in Jamal Crawford. As a starter, Collison is playing with a backcourt mate that will most likely join him back on the bench when both Paul and Reddick recover. With more time together than they would ever get off the bench as a pair they can develop some chemistry and develop as a potent backcourt off the bench. You’ve seen both Jackson and Jeremy Lamb struggle in their different roles since the Russell Westbrook injury, I look for the Paul injury to have an opposite effect, especially in the long run.

Granted, Paul is irreplaceable, but this isn’t a Derrick Rose situation, it’s a month long injury on a team with other options. Both Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan will struggle from the lack of Paul’s pinpoint lobs and other passes, and shooters like Jared Dudley and Antawn Jamison won’t find themselves with as many open looks, but if the Clippers are a B plus right now, Collison only brings them down to a B minus, and when Paul and Reddick return and Crawford and Collison go back to the bench, look for the team to jump to an A.

Graham McConnell

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