The Raptors NEED to acquire Darren Collison.
Not quite what you were expecting, huh?
While I generally abhor talking about rumored trades, and will almost never theorize about trades which haven't even made it to the rumor stage (like this one), the circumstances facing the Raptors and the Hornets made this marriage too perfect to pass up. And since all there is to discuss in Raptor-land is conjecture, anyway, I'd rather write about that than nothing at all.
The Raptors have been without a high-caliber point guard since the halcyon days of Damon Stoudamire back in the mid-90s. Despite numerous attempts to fill his void (Mark Jackson, Alvin Williams, T.J. Ford, Jose Calderon), no replacement has been able to give the Raptors the kind of top-flight point guard they have (at times desperately) needed.
Now, there is no rule, implied or otherwise, that says that a team needs a top-flight point guard to run their ship. In fact, the Lakers are currently playing in their fifth Finals with Derek Fisher at the starting point guard spot, and while he's inarguably effective, he's never come close to an All-Star or All-NBA nod in his life.
That said, though, the bulk of the other power teams in the NBA are increasingly employing point guards of the highest caliber. Rajon Rondo, Steve Nash, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, Jason Kidd, Chauncey Billups, Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook Andre Miller, Jameer Nelson, Mo Williams and Brandon Jennings were all playing in the Playoffs this season while Ford, Calderon, Chris Duhon, Rodney Stuckey, Mike Conley, Beno Udrih and Jonny Flynn sat at home and watched.
The point is that it seems much easier to make your way in this league with a top point guard than to try and squeeze by with an average one. Still, perhaps you are not convinced that Darren Collison -- last year's 21st overall pick in the draft -- can really insert himself into the conversation with the former group above, especially since his Hornets also missed the Playoffs. Let's debunk that thinking, stat!
While maybe his 12.4-points and 5.7-assists per-game overall last year weren't especially eye-opening, his 18.8-points and 9.1-assists per-game as a starter were. Especially since, due to injuries to regular starter Chris Paul, he actually started 37 games for the Hornets last season, nearly half of the season, making the sample size significantly more relevant than had he simply blown up the last weeks of the season (*cough*JrueHoliday*cough*). As a starter, he shot 49% from the field, 43% from behind the arc, and had better overall averages than the highly-touted Stephen Curry (17.9ppg, 6.1apg, .461 FG%, .436% 3PFG) and Brandon Jennings (17.1ppg, 6.3apg, .371 FG%, .374 3PFG%). This is a guy that had fourteen 10+ assist games last season (which is eight more than Derrick Rose had), including one 18 assist game and one 20 assist game. He scored over 30-points twice, and over 20-points sixteen times (two more than Rajon Rondo). Keep in mind, too, that those outbursts occurred despite him coming off of the bench for 39 games on a pretty bad NOLA squad. He even had a triple-double (18-12-13) back on February 19 against Indiana. Not too shabby.
But Collison's impact extends farther than simple point and assist numbers. 49% of his personal offense last season occurred in the first ten seconds of the shot clock, and that was when he was most effective, percentage-wise (going for a 55% eFG% in that time). With head coach Jay Triano being an avowed proponent of the virtues of early-clock offense, that is a tremendous fit for his style. Collison is a lightening-quick guard, too, and he saw 34% of his offense come from the inside, despite his diminutive six-foot frame (he shot a 56% eFG% in those situations last season). In fact, he took more shots per-game from around the basket (3.5 per-game) than he did anywhere else on the floor, a real boon to a team that all too often settles for long jumpers instead of forcing their attack towards the rim. That means that not only does Collision have the tools to create his own offense but he also has the quickness to beat the opposition off of the dribble, get to the basket and collapse defenses, opening up the floor for his teammates - most importantly the three-point threat, Bargnani. He is also very strong at creating offense when using screens, which would also greatly aid in chemistry with Bargnani in pick-and-pop situations, a staple of the Raptors attack.
As a defender, Collison loves to pester his man, even though he isn't a lock-down guy, and he averaged 1.5 steals per game as a starter last season, which is a deadly skill to have since he is so quick in transition that he makes teams pay for turning the ball over by scoring quickly at the other end...