By Matt Scribbins
The natural career progression goes something like this: Mr. Basketball → McDonald’s All-American → NCAA All-American → NBA Lottery Pick → setting screens off the bench. What? Thunder forward Nick Collison boasts an All-Star pedigree, but his traditional box score numbers are rather pedestrian. Consider these numbers from the 2010-2011 regular season:
- He scored more than 10 points only five times
- He never recorded more than 10 rebounds in a game
- The former Kansas Jayhawk averaged just 4.6 points and 4.5 rebounds per game this year, but his incredible impact is captured by other measures
Who was Oklahoma City’s best player according to adjusted +/- and rating data? It wasn’t the NBA’s scoring champion. It wasn’t the All-Star point guard, and it wasn’t Serge Iblocka. It was Nick Collison, who recorded just one double-double in the regular season. Heck, his foul total matched or exceeded his point total in 30 regular season games. Find a more ridiculous stat than that for a terrific NBA player.
Now, spend a few minutes trying to guess the identities of Player A and Player B.
I’ll give you some clues:
1. Both players were lottery picks in 2003
2. Both players signed new contracts in 2010
3. Both players currently ball for title contenders
Player A had a slightly better adjusted +/-, but that was it. Player B produced a better rating overall and also had better ratings on offense and defense. Did you guess Player A is LeBron James and Player B is Nick Collison?
Collison’s usage rate is Ben Wallace-esque, and his 10.83 PER doesn’t light up nerd’s spreadsheets. Similar to offensive linemen in football, he makes the essential plays every game that do not show up in the box score. He sets screens, makes proper rotations, and racks up hustle plays. He is often described as a role player for the Thunder, but truthfully, he is more of a role model for the team. The Thunder get it done when Collison is on the floor, and his next step may look like this: → NBA Champion.