For a day, the conversation around Kendrick Perkins has switched from his productivity for the Thunder to when he and Timofey Mosgov are having their first “Blake Dunked On Us Anonymous” support group meeting.
But with Perk, an interesting discussion has been building in the Thunder fan base as to whether or not he’s really earning his keep. The Thunder are paying him well and he’s anchored as a member of the long-term core and starting five, but with him putting up career-lows in numbers, should OKC fans be a bit concerned or even frustrated with the play of Perk?
So let’s play some 3-on-3 on the Yung Hawg.
1. Fact or Fiction: Kendrick Perkins is playing well for the Thunder.
Royce Young, Daily Thunder: Fact. If you only watch basketball through the eyes of a box score, you’re missing out on the true value of players. We give Nick Collison all the credit in the world for doing little things like defending the post despite putting up terrible traditional numbers, so why doesn’t Perk get the same benefit of the doubt? You can deny that Perk has had an impact defending big men like Dwight Howard, Marc Gasol and Greg Monroe. Some matchups don’t favor him to where he hurts the Thunder, but that’s up to Scott Brooks to recognize what works and what doesn’t.
Patrick James, Daily Thunder: Fact. He’s there for defense, and he’s defending. I’m sure the Thunder coaching staff would like to see more consistent rebounding numbers — I know I’d like to see it. But he’s providing solid man defense in the post, and when he’s at his best, he allows Serge Ibaka to be at his best as a weakside help defender. Smarter coaching and scheming could probably coax a little more offense out of him — but that’s true of just about every player on the roster.
Brendan Jackson, Celtics Hub: Faction. This is a tricky one. Perkins’ numbers are down across the board this season but if you’re relying on the Yung Hawg to put up numbers you need to readjust your expectations. Even if Perk isn’t producing like other starting centers, he sets fantastic screens, he brings leadership, and most importantly he brings toughness.
2. Fact or Fiction: Thunder fans should expect more from Perk.
Royce Young: Fact, but I say that without extreme conviction. Mainly because when Perk slimmed down and got into great shape, I think a lot of fans expected this kind of Perk. The one that dunked on people and swatted shots into the stands. He’s done some of that, but not to the extent he did in Boston. Perk and Sam Presti both said the thought the best was yet to come for Perk, but we haven’t really been seeing that.
Patrick James: Fact. But I’m not talking about his play, I’m talking about attitude control. It’s gotten to the point where Perk’s prodigious technical foul rate isn’t really cute anymore. The toughness that he brings to the floor is exactly what the Thunder needed, but I think it’s possible to achieve that toughness and even nastiness without loading up on techs. Tyson Chandler provided the mentality that helped the Mavericks win the title last year, and he did it without collecting techs at the alarming rate Perk is. It’s time to chill out a bit.
Brendan Jackson: Fact. When Perk was in Boston, anything he brought to the table outside of intangibles or showed up in the box score was considered a luxury. This season though, Perk has slimmed down and not all of his baby hooks are hitting the front rim. Perk is the type of guy who will want you to expect more from him and more often than not he’ll deliver. The bottom line: sometimes you don’t notice Perk’s contributions until he’s gone. Seriously. Ask ANY Celtics’ fan.
3. Fact or Fiction: The Thunder are 29-8 with Perk in the starting five. That’s not coincidental.
Royce Young: Fact. I don’t see how you can deny Perk’s impact on the Thunder’s win-loss record. He’s not a game-changer like Dwight Howard or Andrew Bynum, but he doesn’t need to be. I love a role player that understands his role and doesn’t try to step outside of that box. Perk knows he needs to defend, communicate, screen and push people’s buttons. He does those things well. Stats are good and can indicate issues or things that need to be tweaked, but the most important thing is winning, which the Thunder have done with Perk.
Patrick James: Fact. The trades in 2011 balanced Oklahoma City’s roster, and that needed to happen. The Thunder has done well without a true small forward in the rotation other than Kevin Durant — what OKC needed was size and post defense, and that’s what it got last year. We’re still waiting for everything to truly click on all cylinders, especially defensively … but OKC is still one of the NBA’s undisputed top teams. As long as you believe incremental improvement will indeed come, there’s nothing broken about the Thunder right now that won’t be fixed.
Brendan Jackson: Fact. Ask any slasher what it’s like to attack the basket when Perkins is protecting the paint. Even LeBron James will tell you he has to think twice. Ask Dwight Howard what it’s like to face one of the only guys in the league that can body him up without fouling. Put it this way: I’ll give OKC the two centers on their roster (Jermaine O’Neal and Greg Stiemsma) for Kendrick Perkins. I don’t even have to ask the Celtics for permission to make this deal. They’ll thank me later.