As you would by now know, the Oklahoma City Thunder are going to be without starting center Kendrick Perkins for an extended period of time due to a groin injury suffered in the Thunder’s loss to Miami. While Scott Brooks no doubt has some options moving forward, the general consensus is that the Oklahoma City Thunder will start rookie Steven Adams in place of Perk.
Perkins has been very reliable only resting a few games a couple of seasons ago and only missing a couple of games this season due to personal reasons. The Thunder really have a very small window of what it looks like to play without the defensive minded center – but that could be about to change.
Many Thunder fans over the journey have called for the amnesty of Perkins, or at least have him resigned to a bench role – all in favor of starting the New Zealand rookie in his place. They will be quick to remind everyone of the game against the Detroit Pistons where Adams started and stuffed the stat sheet to the tune of 17 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks and 1 steal in 31 minutes of action.
One game doesn’t make a player though. Now the same Thunder fans that have been wanting Adams to start of Perkins to sit will be able to get a more realistic gauge of the importance of Kendrick and the inexperience of Adams.
Kendrick Perkins doesn’t do a lot – if you look at box scores and numbers, but he does anchor the Oklahoma City Thunder defense, he brings an element of toughness to the team and he is a big strong body to throw on the games best big men. Steve Adams is likely to turn out to be all these things as well, but with an added offensive element and more athleticism. The next week or so will be a big test to see just how far he has come in his first season and how far he has to go to become a starter in this league.
Adams has been plagued by foul trouble – a common theme among rookies and more so for rookie centers. This foul trouble has also lead to sporadic minutes which has curtailed his development as a player. The young Kiwi only played the one season at Pitt and is still just 20 years old though, so it is to be expected. If anything, he has probably developed more quickly than the Thunder anticipated which has led to Brooks playing the rookie 14 minutes per game. He might be playing more if he could avoid picking up fouls.
When you watch Adams play, you can see exactly what the front office saw in him. He is going to be a very good NBA player and a very good center. He has all the tools to contribute well and is showing a good grasp of the pro game. This next stretch is going to really show the Thunder what they can expect from their rookie in due course. While Brooks might also tinker with the lineups to play some small ball with Perry Jones, Nick Collison and others, we will likely get a hefty dose of Adams – if he can stay on the floor.
A tantalizing prospect who has no doubt benefited from the tutelage of Perkins, now gets his chance to show what he has learnt. It might be enough to convince the “Perk haters” that we still need Kendrick or it might add volume to their argument. With some very tough matches coming their way over the next week (Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies especially) the Thunder are going to need some very solid minutes from their rookie and Adams will be wanting to show fans and the franchise that he is ready for the challenge.
After all, winning games is the single most important thing – and the Thunder have been winning with Perk in the middle. Let’s hope they can keep winning with a rookie in that starting spot.