Feb. 10, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA: Oklahoma City Thunder center Kendrick Perkins against the Phoenix Suns at the US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

OKC Thunder: Can Kendrick Perkins be a better player next season?

The finger of blame always finds Kendrick Perkins when pointing out the downfalls of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Most of the time, it is rightfully so.

Perkins will be entering his fourth season with the Thunder in 2013-14. Ever since acquiring the big man for Jeff Green in 2011, Perkins seems to have been on a steady decline.

But Perkins is back to work this summer to get better. One thing you can never take away from Perkins is his work ethic.

“I’ve been working, man … Been in the gym and basically just working more in the weight room on my explosiveness and touch around the basket, hook shots and stuff like that. I’ve been shooting a lot of jumpers, making sure I make 300 a night. I’m just trying to prepare.”

Via The Oklahoman

The truth about Perkins the last few seasons is that he has been banged up. He had a hurt groin in the 2012 playoffs and wasn’t 100 percent last year either. He of course still played through these injuries, never making a very big deal about it with the media.

But if Perkins can be healthy next year thanks to a long offseason of rest in which he is apparently working his butt off, maybe he can be a better player for the Thunder.

Despite starting Perkins and having him play so much, the Thunder had one of the best offenses in the league over the past few seasons. And last year, the starters actually weren’t that bad for the Thunder, contrary to the reputation they earned from the season before.

The Thunder had an offensive rating of 110.2 last season and net rating of 11.0. The starters for the Thunder of course played the most minutes of any other five-man lineup, and actually posted a higher net rating than the overall team’s. They had an offensive rating of 109.3 and net of 12.3.

The best lineup (minimum 90 minutes) for the Thunder was that of Westbrook-Martin-Sefolosha-Durant-Collison and it had a net rating of 19.8 with an offensive rating of 127.8 but a defensive rating of 108.0.

The season before, the Thunder starters had an offensive rating of just 100.5 and net of 7.6. So there was a big improvement when it comes to the starters last year.

I feel like people underrate when there is a team who has had the same starting five for multiple seasons in a row. The Thunder will be going into basically the fourth year in a row with these starters, and while it hasn’t been the best starting five-man lineup since day one, that experience together counts for a lot and I’d expect to see more improvement next season.

The issues with Perkins are simple. He has trouble catching the ball, finishing inside and really doing anything with the ball without turning it over. But there was a time in his career that he was somewhat reliable as a big catching and finishing inside. If Perk is working on being more nimble and can get more lift when he goes up inside and if he’s healthier, I don’t see why he can’t become better next season.

I have faith in Perkins’ basketball IQ. He knows the game and when his body allows him, will make good basketball plays, often with the pass.

I have been very critical of Perkins in the past and Scott Brooks for playing him so much. The point of this article is not that I am turning the corner on accepting Perk. It’s that we know he is going to get a ton of run next season, and I think he might do alright, or at least better than he ever has in OKC.

If Perkins can get better – and we know just about everyone else on the team will – then the league will really need to watch out for the Thunder and not sleep on them.

Tags: Kendrick Perkins Oklahoma City Thunder

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