I know Darren Collison a little bit. He is from Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, and because he was a “local” guy to me as sports columnist for The Sun and Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, I often spent time with him after games, the past three UCLA basketball seasons.
He’s a nice kid, well-spoken, as the Bruins tend to be. And about a week ago, he looked like a middle-of-the-first-round NBA draft choice thanks to his work as UCLA’s starting point guard for two seasons … plus his energy as a key reserve the season before, as a freshman.
Then came A Series of Unfortunate Events that could cost Collison, literally, millions of dollars.
Collison turned in three absolutely wretched performances when NBA owners, coaches and general managers probably were watching.
1. In the 86-76 loss to Florida in the Final Four last year, Collison scored nine points on 3-of-14 shooting and was 1-for-6 from three-point range.
2. In UCLA’s 88-78 Sweet Sixteen victory over Western Kentucky 10 days ago, Collison was badly outplayed by unheralded point guard Tyrone Brazelton, who scored 31 while Collison was held to four points on 1-for-6 shooting. Collison had only one assist — against four turnovers. Oh, and he fouled out after only 28 minutes because he couldn’t keep up with Brazelton.
3. The most damaging game yet. Matched against Memphis and heralded rookie Derrick Rose in the Final Four, Collison was destroyed. He scored two points on 1-for-9 shooting and had five turnovers against four assists. Again, he fouled out while chasing a bigger, stronger player, leaving after 33 minutes. His fifth foul was almost embarrassing, a clumsy reach that communicated “lost his composure” right through the TV screen. Meanwhile, Rose had 25 points. It got worse, afterward, when Collison told a TV guy that UCLA’s bench had failed to produce … when the Bruins’ single biggest failure was the collapse of its point guard.
So there you are. Three ugly games when Everyone Was Looking.
And if you think NBA scouts will overlook that body of work in favor of all those good games he had during the regular season … well, think again. Final Four performances carry far more weight than a home game against Oregon State.
OK, where does money come in? Here’s where:
Money paid out to NBA draft choices starts out high and declines precipitously through the first round.
One of those draft-oriented websites predicts the top pick this summer (probably Michael Beasley of Kansas State) will get $4.8 million per year for year, over three years. The No. 2 guy will get $4.3 million per for three years.
And then it falls. By the time you get to No. 10, the money is $2.1 million per season. At No. 20, it’s $1.3 million per.
So, let’s guess and say Collison was looking at the No. 15 slot in the 2008 draft. (hoopshype.com had him No. 13, the day before the Western Kentucky game was played.)
At the 15 slot, Collison would get $1.6 million per year on a three-year pact, hoopshype.com suggests. Or $4.8 million over three years.
Let’s say Collison’s performances in high-profile games damages his draft value … and frankly, it has to. Let’s say he drops to 25.
Our friendly website suggests the No. 25 pick is going to get $1 million a year. Which works out to $3 million over three years, or nearly $2 million less than Collison would have gone before those stink bombs vs. Western Kentucky and Memphis.
Even before those games, hoopshype wasn’t all aglow over Collison’s future as a pro. Wrote the site, in part: “Shoots an excellent percentage from behind the arc, but will he be able to hit NBA 3’s with his awkward mechanics? Small and skinny. Not an amazing offensive threat, gets passive at times, especially finishing around the rim. A likely role player at the next level.”
And now? We can hardly imagine. “Destroyed by Derrick Rose and Tyrone Brazelton. Tends to wilt under the bright lights.” Ack.
Instead of being the next Tony Parker or Monta Ellis (small and skinny, guys, as well), NBA scouts might be thinking more in terms of Collison as the next Tyronn Lue or Earl Watson. Or maybe (maybe) Jordan Farmar without the three-point stroke.
Wow. Makes us wonder what other college activity can so dramatically impact a person’s earning power. Turning in a horrible master’s thesis after three years of great grades? Getting an F in your last class — in your major?
If I’m Darren Collison, I’m depressed. My reputation and, more significantly, my business value, just took a horrible beating. A couple of million bucks I reasonably expected to get … have just disappeared.
Should I, Darren Collison, consider coming back for my senior season at UCLA? If I’m convinced those Big Game Busts were aberrations, staying in school is a possibility. A chance to prove I CAN play big in big college games and maybe push my draft value up.
But I probably don’t. Even if I’m the last pick of the first round (and he can’t fall further than that … can he?), and get about $950,000 for three years, that’s $2.85 million — which is a lot more than a UCLA basketball scholarship is worth.
If I’m Collison, I go pro … and dedicate myself to demonstrating IN the league that I’m a better player than I’ve looked in those big NCAA tourney games, and make sure my second NBA contract is for big dollars, commensurate to the way I really play — as a three-point threat who can get into the lane and create. And not as the frail and frazzled guy who stunk up the Alamodome last night.