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2014-15 Thunder player grades: Nick Collison, Old Man Game

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Nick Collison has been a staple of the Thunder since the beginning, but after not having his best season is his is value still there?

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Nick Collison is Mad Men
Nick Collison is Mad Men
William Bennett Berry

How exactly does one objectively write about someone that they really love? I don't know exactly how that works but I am going to try to do that with Nick Collison.

Collison is that man. He played on one of the coolest college teams ever, he loves awesome TV shows and he wrote for GQ. No one else has enough street cred to write for GQ. As I was thinking about this post I asked myself the question why is it that you like Nick Collison so much? And what I came up with is pretty simple. He is the guy I would most want to hang out with in the NBA, he's the most real life. It feels like its just one of my friends out there playing. Who wouldn't want to root for this guy?


So what about Nick's performance this year, that is supposed to be the point of this post. Well, that's where things get tricky, because to put it most simply Nick's didn't have a great year by his standards. Now that's not necessarily fair because he only played 66 games which is the second least of his 11 year career. And when he came back there was Mitch McGary there and then the Thunder traded for Enes Kanter, so there was a crowded backcourt with a lot of change which made it more difficult for Collison to have the same role we have seen over the years.

But some of the numbers can't be ignored. He played the least amount of minutes per game (16.7) of his entire career, but despite that he still had the lowest true shooting percentage of his career (48.5%) and it wasn't even close. To be blunt he just wasn't the same old efficient Nick Collison that we are used to. He started shooting more 3's this season, which I must admit at first I was a big fan of, he averaged .9 attempts per game so basically 1 attempt per game. In fact he shot 60 3 pointers this year, the most of his career, his second closest was 17 attempts so 60 is a ton. And shooting more 3 pointers would not be a problem as it would do even better job of spacing the floor and offering another option off of the pick and roll. But the problem was he only shot 26.7%. That percentage doesn't exactly warrant more shots.

But the problem with evaluating Nick Collison solely with numbers is that this is Nick Collison. He is the ultimate "what he does doesn't show up on the stat sheet" guy. Which is a line of thinking that I typically don't subscribe to but I do think there is something to what his role was this season. The Thunder played so many different big men and in a lot of ways he was one of the constants that the team had to lean on. And that is one of the reasons I think he struggled this season, but is also one of the reasons he is so valuable. Let me explain.

Collison had to play numerous different roles this season. Really Collison is the ultimate role player, he does a couple things really well at any one time and plays really hard. To be a great role player you have to be able to first know what you do well but there needs to be this ability to look at the big picture and see what exactly it is the team needs. That to me is what Nick Collison does so well, it is like if a coach was watching the game and thought, "the team just needs a little bit more of this." Except that Nick gets to actually go play and try to do those things.

For instance, at the start of the season without Russell and Kevin Collison took on more of a scoring and almost creating mode. He was assisting a very high rate and this was when he was shooting the most amount of 3's. When Russell came back and eventually Durant, during the middle of the season Collison went back to playing more his traditional role of rebounding, finishing around the rim, and playing a great two man game. But then Kevin got hurt and the team added Enes Kanter and again Nick's role changed and he was then working with a scoring big, which he has really never played with in his career.

Nick Collison re-signed this past season for 2 years and about $8 million, a move that left a lot of people confused. Why commit that much money to a guy who does so little and with the bigs they have now really won't play a whole lot? On the surface that really does seem odd. But when really breaking it down it makes sense. First of all with the salary cap increasing each of the next 2 seasons Collison is signed that $8 million won't make near the difference it seems like now. Secondly, Collison is the ultimate role player. Every team needs someone that is willing to do whatever the team needs. But how many players actually know what the team needs? Not very many, but it sure seems like Collison does. This roster is going to change and so will the dynamics and it is important to have a constant. And the last reason he is worth it is in the same way that I like him because he seems like a real person, surely the other players on the team feel that way. No one has ever said anything bad about him, only great things. A personality that is as popular as Collison's, is important in a culture of big egos and money to have someone like him.

In an era of advanced statistics is there anyone that really does things that can't be measured? I don't know about that, but if there is anyone that does it's Nick Collison. His numbers this year weren't very good, and for all intensive purposes he wasn't that great, but his value is still there. The things he does filling in the gaps when they need to be filled is worth is $4 million dollars. Heck this handshake alone makes him pretty stinking valuable.