What Darren Collison’s return could mean for both L.A. teams

In looking to make his way back to the NBA, Darren Collison’s presence could go a long way towards aiding the title hopes of either L.A. team.

Darren Collison wasn’t among the most sought-after free agents of the 2019 offseason bonanza, but he was viewed as a quality point guard who could move the needle for several playoff-caliber teams.

He was going to get paid until he wasn’t, not after abruptly retiring before the start of free agency to focus on his Jehovah’s Witnesses faith.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, however, Collison is now considering a return to the NBA some time in February, with the hope of signing with either the LA Clippers or Los Angeles Lakers.

The two L.A. teams seem destined for a playoff clash with a Finals trip on the line. Both are heavily invested in the availability of Andre Iguodala, but the construction of their respective rosters would make the addition of Collison worthwhile, providing the slightest of advantages against the other.

LeBron James seems to be doing fine as the Lakers’ de facto point guard, but L.A. still lacks capable shot creators and floor generals behind him.

Avery Bradley is a point guard on paper only. Alex Caruso is more of an off guard while the Lakers are worse at both ends with Rajon Rondo on the court.

Collison, meanwhile, averaged 11.2 points and 6.0 assists per game with the Indiana Pacers last season, numbers that outpace any of the aforementioned trio of guards.

He’s quick off the dribble, can create a shot and has 40 games of playoff experience under his belt. On a bench that ranks 15th in scoring and 16th in assists, Collison could do wonders and allow James to take just the tiniest of extra breathers over a 48-minute game.

A career 39.4 percent 3-point shooter who canned 44.0 percent of his catch-and-shoot looks last season, Collison could also fit snugly alongside the Lakers’ dynamic pick-and-roll threat of LeBron and Anthony Davis.

The Clippers’ bench, on the other hand, is doing just fine, one of the best in the league actually at No. 1 in points and fourth in assists per game thanks in large part to Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell.

If there is a weakness among this stacked Clippers roster, it’s the absence of a traditional point guard to run the show.

Patrick Beverley isn’t much help offensively outside of spot-up duties. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George can create shots for themselves whenever they want, but it remains to be seen whether they can directly set up looks for others.

Nobody on the Clippers ranks in the top 25 in potential assists per game. Their leading assist man is Lou Williams at 6.3 a night, although he’s not exactly the sparkling image of a pass-happy combo guard.

With a 24-11 record — good for No. 3 in the Western Conference — LA has hardly felt the ramifications of that vacancy, but championship contention requires a certain level of nitpicking so as not to leave any stone unturned

If the Clippers can add a veteran like Collison — who played one season for them in 2013-14 — on a cheap deal, they’re going to seize the opportunity in the pursuit of a title they’ve rarely had the chance to chase.

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In a debate over which L.A. team could greater use the services of Collison, the Lakers’ desperate lack of ballhandlers seems to stick out more than anything else. Not that that is necessarily going to swing him one way or the other.

Of course, another squad outside Southern California could certainly showcase their attractive services in the form of a greater role or a sizeable contract.

It’s hard to image Collison, however, opting against the combined allure of nice weather, a familiar coach — Frank Vogel or Doc Rivers — and the chance to chase a championship assuming both teams are interested — which they very well are.

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Wherever he chooses to sign, either the Clippers or Lakers will get another piece that brings them closer to solving the championship puzzle, while the other is left rummaging through the box to find someone to help them catch up.

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