I’m not usually one to toot my own horn, but what the heck. Toot! Toot! In the middle of November, with the Oklahoma City Thunder sitting at 5-4 and struggling mightily at the defensive end, I wrote a post detailing my opinion that the Thunder were missing Nick Collison a lot more than people thought.
Since Collison returned from injury the Thunder have gone 18 – 9. If you’re keeping track at home the Thunder’s winning percentage went from 0.556 without him to 0.667 when Collison rejoined the team. He’s not solely responsible for that improvement but as I asserted before, he’s a big part of it.
In November, after nine games, the Thunder had an ORtg. of 104.8 and a DRtg. of 107.7. In the 27 games since Collison returned the team has posted an ORtg. of 107.0 and a DRtg. of 103.4. This has brought their season ratings to 106.1 and 104.0 respectively.
These numbers become even more striking if we just look at minutes when Collison is on the floor. In 548 minutes with Collison on the floor the Thunder have an ORtg. of 110.1 and a DRtg. of 102.2. In 1204 minutes without him their ORtg. is an identical 110.1 but their DRtg. rises precipitously to 110.0. With Collison on the floor the Thunder grab 50.5% of available rebounds. Without Collison on the floor they grab 49.5% of available rebounds. Simply put, he makes the Thunder a much better team, particularly at the defensive end. In terms of point differential they play like a 41 win team without him on the floor and a 61 win team when he is on the floor.
There isn’t much in his individual stats which would hint at such a large impact. His per 40 minute stat line of 8.8 Pts, 9.2 Rebs, 1.3 Asts, 1.0 Stls and 0.9 Blks is solid but certainly not eye-popping.
Collison’s strength is defense which is sometimes hard to quantify through individual stats. He led the league in charges drawn last season, but unfortunately HoopData doesn’t appear to be currently tracking that stat. 82games tracks a player’s counterpart stats, basically what the opposing player averages while that player is on the floor. I’m not entirely convinced of the accuracy of these numbers in general but they do look great for Collison. Opposing power forwards are putting up a PER of 11.6 against him. Opposing centers are putting up a PER of 12.3. Keep in mind that a PER of 15.0 is considered average.
The Thunder have improved significantly since the beginning of the season. He’s not the only reason, but the return of Nick Collison has made a huge impact. I think the Oklahoma City fans recognize his impact. The organization certainly does, as evidenced by the creative contract extension they gave him a few weeks ago. I’d love to see him get a little more recognition from some national media outlets. You can label his contributions however you want; solid team defense, veteran leadership, toughness and smarts. The bottom line is they’re a much better team with him in the rotation.