If the trade deadline passes without either the Los Angeles Lakers or Clippers making a major move, the two teams still could have a transaction battle ahead—for free-agent guard Darren Collison. While the hub-bub of the trade deadline marches forward, Collison is still preparing himself to be an X-factor in the coming postseason.
Last summer, Collison abruptly retired from basketball just before he turned 32, after a season in which he averaged 11.2 points and 6.0 assists as a starter for the Pacers. But in January, an ESPN report noted that Collison was considering a return to the NBA.
This week, a source told Heavy.com that Collison will weigh his options after the All-Star break and make a decision on a return then. He has remained in NBA-ready game shape and would be able to return to the court quickly once he signs.
Collison, a native of Southern California who went to UCLA, does not want to leave the area. He would prefer to sign with either the Lakers or the Clippers—and both teams need an added playmaker.
If Collison does not sign on this year, he still will be a free agent in the summer and could make a return then.
Both L.A. Teams Active in Trade Market
The Lakers and Clippers are championship contenders but both teams are lacking at point guard. The Clippers don’t have a pure point guard in the rotation, with combo guards Pat Beverley and Lou Williams mostly managing the position. They combine to average 10.0 assists per game, but the Clippers are just 23rd in assist percentage, at 56.9.
The Lakers have been using LeBron James as the team’s point guard for many of his minutes, filling in bench minutes with Alex Caruso, Rajon Rondo and Quinn Cook. They move the ball well as a team (60.8 assist percentage) but they’d like a better passer off the bench.
The Clippers have been active in searching the trade market, but their goal is to bring in a defensive-minded wing, not a point guard. They’re more likely to address the point-guard hole in the buyout market.
The same could be said for the Lakers, who have shopped forward Kyle Kuzma as the team looks to add depth, most likely with a wing coming back. L.A. needs a playmaker and has considered a handful in the trade the market but the Lakers are more likely to stick with what they have in the backcourt or find a free-agent.
A Lakers-Clippers Battle for Darren Collison?
Collison makes good sense for either team, though they’d each have to create a roster spot to sign him. Collison is a 10-year veteran who has experience as a starter and as a reserve, averaged double-figure scoring in each of his NBA seasons and is an outstanding floor-spacer.
Collison shot 39.4 percent from the 3-point line in his career and better than 40 percent each of his last four years. He led the league in 3-point percentage in 2017-18, at 46.8 percent.
As the season has pressed on, it’s become clearer that the Lakers and Clippers are the class of the Western Conference and, depending on how the playoff seeding lands, should meet in what would be an epic conference final matchup.
But each needs some roster help entering the postseason. Collison could provide it. Once the All-Star break passes, he could be the central figure of the first Clippers-Lakers battle.