Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Kendrick Perkins plays a valuable role for the Thunder

While all the headlines go to Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, all the blame goes to Scott Brooks and the most recent flurry of praise and love goes to Reggie Jackson (Let’s face it, he deserves it after THAT Game 4 performance) quietly going about his business and playing an invaluable role in the Thunder’s playoff series against Memphis is Kendrick Perkins.

Most of the time, Perkins is spoken of as a hindrance to the Oklahoma City Thunder. His huge contract, his bad knees and his lack of any form of offensive game has him in the critics sights more often than not. With a trademark glare, little to no personality and his penchant for making “interesting” choices (such as sitting on Mike Miller) it is easy to dislike Perk – but the Thunder aren’t having a bar of it.

Without Perkins, the Thunder might already be heading home. While he hasn’t lit up the box score like Reggie Jackson and he doesn’t have the numbers like Durant, Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, Perkins is playing a huge role for the Thunder as a defensive stopper. Originally brought in to the team as an “enforcer” to protect the budding young superstar duo of Durant and Westbrook. Perkins has added an element of toughness to the flamboyant Thunder. He never shies away from a contest, he hates being beaten and he will leave it all on the floor for the team – Perk is a true professional.

In this series – her has been given the task of slowing down the massive Grizzlies front line of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. While those two have still been playing at a high level, game 4 really highlighted just what Perkins can do. He focused on working over Randolph and made him pretty much a non-factor in the Thunder’s win in overtime. Perkins, a massive mountain of physicality, made it extremely difficult for Randolph to get to his spots. These plays don’t show up in any stat category – but believe me they were huge in the context of the game and the series.

The role is nothing new to Perkins though – he has been doing it since he came to the NBA. In a Thunder win over the Houston Rockets during the regular season he was extremely effective at keeping star center Dwight Howard away from the low block and largely ineffective. That is the value of Perk. When he was out of the lineup due to injury, it wasn’t a coincidence that the Thunder struggled defensively. Perkins performs a valuable and underrated service, one that you really only notice or miss when you don’t have him on the floor.

Rookie Steven Adams has been terrific in his role this season. He is a great blend of physical strength and skill, but he is very raw. Another role that Perkins assists the Thunder with is developing the young Kiwi into a starting NBA center. Adams would be smart to learn all he can from the bruising veteran.

As the Thunder head into a Game 5 at home, Perkins will once again be relied on to provide that interior defense, physical presence and veteran leadership. It won’t show up in the box score, but a W will – and that is really all that Perk cares about.

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Tags: Oklahoma City Thunder

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