2011-12 NBA Season: The Most Overlooked Member of the Oklahoma City Thunder

Kevin HsuContributor IIIDecember 31, 2011

DALLAS, TX - MAY 25:  Nick Collison #4 of the Oklahoma City Thunder attempts to block the shot of Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks in the first half in Game Five of the Western Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Center on May 25, 2011 in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Oklahoma City Thunder are favorites to win the West this year. Their success has been created through smart draft picks, as well as the emergence of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The Thunder have slowly become a model organization through valuing necessity over talent. Among one of the Thunder's best draft decisions is Nick Collison. Collison had a storied career at Kansas before entering the NBA as the twelfth pick in the 2003 NBA draft by the Seattle Supersonics. Since then, he has quietly become a valuable player on the Thunder.

Although his stats are not gaudy, they do demonstrate his effectiveness. He consistently shoots over 50 percent from the field and over 70 percent from the free-throw line, all while providing smart play offensively. He also sets great picks, which in turn sets up good looks for his teammates. Although his offense is nothing to sneeze at, his play defensively is really where he shines. 

Again, he does not get a lot of stats on defense, but he is still effective defensively. He is not afraid of contact and is willing to do the dirty work down low. He is a smart defensive player who somehow always finds a way to set his feet and take a charge. Not to mention, he crashes the boards well. He, Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka really form a formidable frontcourt defensively. They are all physical defenders and really cover up some of the defensive weaknesses of their teammates. Although Dirk destroyed the Thunder in the playoffs, Collsion certainly made Dirk work for every point. It would be hard to find someone who played better defense on Dirk the entire playoffs. 

Mentally, he plays with a high basketball IQ on both ends, which only can help a young team. With regards to that, he brings a veteran presence to an up-and-coming team that is starved for a strong veteran leader. No offense to Kevin Durant, but he is not a very strong leader yet. He is someone who can lead by example, but is not the most dominant personality in the locker room. Unlike Russell Westbrook, Collison understands his role and accepts that he is not the star but a role player. Not to mention Collison seems to be a loyal guy, having played for the Thunder for his entire career. 

A good comparison for Nick Collison would be Tyler Hansbrough. They are both athletically limited players who make up for it with a high basketball IQ and hustle. Unfortunately, Collison doesn't get half the publicity Hansbrough does, when he is just as deserving. For the Thunder, they could not have found someone better to represent a small market team. Collison is a very down to earth player who never mails in games, plays with intensity to make up for a lack of athleticism and values loyalty. That should be the recipe for success on any roster.