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Edited Photo of Darren Collison from Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

Why can’t Darren Collison make his shots?

Darren Collison is having an unprecedentedly bad shooting season. Why?

Darren Collison led the league in three-point shooting percentage last season, making 46.8 percent of his shots from range. That marked his third straight season shooting over 40 percent from the outside, and his fifth straight season above league average. He officially cemented himself as an elite shooter.

That lasted all of one offseason. This year, Collison can’t hit anything. Literally, anything. He has an ungodly 30.4 shooting percentage from 3, his true shooting percentage is below 50, and even his free throws won’t go down. What gives?

We haven’t seen anything like this, at least in the last decade. Going through the last 10 league leaders in three-point percentage, none of them have seen a drop in the way Collison has.

In 2009, Anthony Morrow led the league in three-point percentage at 46.7 percent. He followed that up with a 45.6 percent success rate the following year. Let’s round out the decade:

2010 – Kyle Korver led the league at 53.6 percent. He followed it up with 41.5 percent.

2011 – Matt Bonner led the league. 45.7 percent. Next season? 42.0.

2012 – Steve Novak. 47.2 followed by 42.5 percent.

2013 – Jose Calderon. 46.1, then 44.9.

2014 – Korver again at 47.2 percent. The next year, he led the league again at 49.2 percent.

2015 – Korver, see above. He hit 39.8 percent the following year.

2016 – J.J Redick. He hit 47.5 percent of his three-pointers. He dug up another stellar 42.9 percent the year after.

2017 – Back to Kyle Korver. 45.1 percent, immediately postdated by 43.6 percent.

2018 – Darren Collison. The person of interest. 46.8 percent, followed by 30.4 percent.

It makes very little sense. Dudes just don’t forget how to shoot. Korver was older than DC is now for three of his four league-leading seasons. Redick was older than Collison is now. Calderon was older. Bonner was the same age. It’s hard to say “age-related regression” for Collison when all these other dudes survived getting older.

He’s currently shooting a putrid 30.4% on his 3s. An average player would be expected to shoot 36.7% on the 3s he’s taken, based on 3pt CPOE data.  Even 17-18 Collison, a player we saw playing sensationally just 7 months ago, would be expected to shoot 45.5% on the same 3pt% openness profile.

His shot chart tells a damning story:

CPOE can tell us much more about Collison’s struggles.

The average NBA player would have 2.9 more makes from three-point range than DC, 8.7 more points on the season. But comparing his current self to his last-year self brings to light how much worse he has really been.

On the same shot profile as this season, 2017-18 Darren Collison would have 6.9 more makes, good for 20.7(!!) more points. 6.9 more makes would put DC near 47 percent from the outside for the entire season, and 20.7 more points would put him at a double-figure scoring average. That would be huge for both DC and the Pacers.

CPOE takes into account shot openness and location, so with this data, it appears that Darren Collison’s shot selection has little to do with his struggles.

Under 1/3 of this three-point attempts have come from the corners, where he has hit 7/13. One could fault the team for not attempting to get him more looks from those areas. But his attempt rate from the corners isn’t far off from last year. Little has changed.

Last season, 80.2 percent of Collison’s made threes were assisted. That number is 75 percent this season. It is lower, but now so much lower that one would think he is making 17 percent fewer outside shots.

So, his regression isn’t age-related. It isn’t location related. His shots are similar in terms of how open they are; his overall shot profile is similar. He’s getting is passed to him about the same amount (his usage is almost identical to last season). What’s the deal here?

Sometimes, as hard as it is to say when going through something like this, he just isn’t making shots. His form isn’t any different (17-18 is first):

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Last season, Collison’s +1.04 PIPM (top 100 in the league) was propped up by his massive offensive impact, coming mostly from a gaudy three-point percentage and a league-leading assist/turnover ratio.

This year, his PIPM is -0.7. His assist to turnover ratio is still solid, despite not being as good as last year. Most of his other peripherals are similar to last season. Essentially, all of his decrease in impact comes from his lack of outside shooting.

And, as we have just discovered, there isn’t an obvious root cause for his misses. The ball just won’t go in the basket.

The likelihood of Collison just forgetting how to shoot is improbably low. Using his 39.3 percent 3-point shooting figure for his career before this year, the odds he makes exactly 14/46 threes is determined by this formula:

Darren Collison probability distribution

So, there’s only about a 5.8% chance that, given Collison’s career shooting numbers, he would hit exact 14/46 this year. It has been unlikely, which means something has got to give. Either Darren Collison is going to start making some outside shots, or something has changed and this isn’t a statistical anomaly. That would mean DC is likely going to start conceding a few minutes to Cory Joseph and the surging Aaron Holiday. I tend to think the shots will start falling for Collison. But until we see it happen, the current trend will continue to be worrisome.

*Stats accurate as of December 1, 2018.

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