He’s not flashy. He doesn’t run the floor like Russell Westbrook, drop buckets like Kevin Durant or swat shots into the rich seats like Serge Ibaka, but Nick Collison has become far from just another sub on OKC’s Western Conference Finals squad. And after watching the seventh year pro from Kansas battle it out in both of the Thunder’s two playoff series thus far, it’s clear that OKC needs a healthy dose of more Collison if they want to take their show any further.
For a team built on youth and excitement, Collison remains its accepted elderly oddball. Elderly for the Thunder that is, considering the 30-year-old is the second eldest on OKC’s roster, behind only 33-year-old veteran forward Nazr Mohammed. Through his time in the NBA, Collison has built a successful career being known as the reliable hard-nosed glue guy. In doing so, he’s sacrificed personal achievement for team success and has brought stability to Oklahoma City’s second unit. In fact, he might be the most coveted 4.6-point and 4.5-rebound guy in the League.
This was never more evident than in the Thunder’s Game 7 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies this past Sunday afternoon. Whenever a big play occurred on the defensive end of the court or a loose ball required corralling, Collison seemed to always be involved in the action. And where eight points, 12 boards and three blocks don’t jump out in the box score like say KD’s 39-spot, Collison’s 33 minutes and contributions were just as valuable as the back-to-back scoring champ’s. Along with Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins, Collison brings a fearless toughness inside, as well as a willingness to put his body on the deck at all times. He’s been blessed with a basketball brain and has become a menace on the defensive side of the ball. Collison’s not paid to score; he’s paid to take charges, to snag rebounds and to annoy an offense any way he can â€“ and he’s good at it. It’s also worth noting that for his efforts, the pay is actually quite good, as Collison is the Thunder’s highest paid player this season at just over $13 million.
When OKC’s starting bigs have found themselves in foul trouble this postseason, as was true in much of the Memphis series, he’s been able to lockdown the opposing defensive assignment. It was Collison who most aggravated Z-Bo to close out the Memphis series and in round one against Denver, he took the same approach frustrating the Nuggets’ frontline.
Sure, the Thunder’s playoff future lives and dies on the shoulders of Westbrook and Durant, but it rises and grinds with the complementary pieces of James Harden and Collison. And if Harden is the team’s offensive X-factor, then Collison is its hard-working backbone. With a bench that is lacking in the same depth as both the Dallas Mavericks and Chicago Bulls, guys like Collison will have to continue to step up for OKC to have a chance.
Who do you think will win the Thunder-Mavericks series?
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