When the Oklahoma City Thunder traded Jeff Green to the Boston Celtics back in 2011 for Kendrick Perkins, everyone was on board with the move.
The Thunder were looking at one team back then that they needed to get past to win the Western Conference and that was the Los Angeles Lakers who were most dominant because of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum on their frontline.
Perkins was going to help the Thunder deal with them. He would have, the Thunder just never really needed Perkins to.
Perkins has brought a lot of value to the Thunder as a leader and vocal defensive anchor. He can be a good NBA player but some feel he plays a little too much for the Thunder, especially when Nick Collison is the other option, and he’s paid too much (he’s owed $17 million the next two seasons).
It wasn’t just swapping Green for Perkins at the time of the trade that made it seem like such a good deal for the Thunder. It also allowed James Harden and Serge Ibaka to be unleashed within the Thunder rotation.
It’s not a knock on Green, but he was the third wheel behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and it made it kind of hard for Harden to have the ball much on offense and Ibaka to get minutes.
Looking back on the trade now and watching Green go off for a career-high 43 points last night vs. the Miami Heat has to have Thunder fans thinking about what could have been had they not traded Green.
A big reason why the Thunder traded Green was because they knew they weren’t going to be able to pay him past his rookie contract, especially since they saw how promising Harden and Ibaka were. What ended up happening though was before the 2011-12 season, doctors found a problem with Green’s heart and he missed the entire season and basically ended up not getting the kind of money OKC anticipated he would demand.
Green signed a four-year, $36 million deal with the Celtics which has him making just about the same as what Perkins is making for the Thunder.
It would have been impossible for the Thunder to foresee this but basically, they could have been able to keep Green and eventually pay him.
This may have even kept Harden from blossoming so quickly into a no-brainer, max-contract guy to where the Thunder could have potentially kept him as well. Maybe not, but kind of a reasonable possibility.
Would the Thunder have made it to the NBA Finals last year without Green or Perkins? Probably. Just insert Collison into all of Perkins’ minutes from last year and they would have been just fine.
You can make the case that the Thunder could essentially have the same team right now except with Green instead of Perkins. Isn’t that the perfect swap for the Thunder? They need to get better at playing small and Green is the perfect small ball three/four and one of the best in the league right now at defending LeBron James.
This is probably too unfair to think about as a possible “What if?” scenario but it still could have happened and wouldn’t the Thunder be better off with Green instead of Perkins right now?
Last night, it was hard not to think that way.