Back in February of 2011, the Oklahoma City Thunder had just come off of a postseason appearance, and were cruising towards their first Northwest Division Championship of the OKC era. Just before the February 24th trade deadline, General Manager, Sam Presti decided that a roster shakeup might be what they needed to make a deep postseason run. Nenad Krstic at center wasn’t keeping opposing big men away from the rim in quite the way the Thunder needed him to do so, so Presti decided to put him on the trade block to get a much-needed defensive anchor at the 5 spot. Although Presti already knew Krstic by himself didn’t hold the value required to get the type of player he was looking for, so he decided to sweeten the deal by adding one of his top 3 players to the deal. With Kevin Durant being completely out of the question, and Russell Westbrook actually exceeding his projected ceiling rather quickly, that left Jeff Green as the odd man out. The addition of Jeff Green to the deal was simply too much to resist for the Boston Celtics. After offering Kendrick Perkins, they added Nate Robinson to the deal so they could create an extra roster space to accommodate Krstic. Once everything was sorted out, the trigger was pulled on the deal that sent Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City. It’s a trade that Doc Rivers has admitted he regrets to this very day.
The second half of the 2013-2014 NBA season did not go particularly well for Perkins, as his persistent knee problems came back to haunt him yet again. Yet the sharp increase in opposing teams’ point totals went a long way towards proving Perkins’ worth to the team as well. Now I look at the totality of his game last season, and grade accordingly.
Offensive Grade: D
For a guy who has averaged nearly 20 minutes a game or more since the 2005-2006 season, Perkins has averaged double-digit PPG (points per game) in the 2009-2010 season, and that’s it. His persistent knee problems have made it to where he doesn’t have much of a vertical jump. The fact that he’s 270 lbs. doesn’t really help that either. When he comes down on his knee, he comes down hard. Yet, when he jumps to the rim, there’s no explosiveness to it. Let’s face it: Kendrick Perkins is a liability at the offensive end. He always has been. He always will be.
Key for improvement - At this point, there really isn’t much he can do. He will turn 30 in the first week or two of the next NBA season, and his knee won’t get any stronger. If he loses weight so that he doesn’t come down as hard on it, he will render himself more likely to give up ground in the low post on defense. Although the addition of a consistent low post hook shot might be the difference-maker he needs. He’s got the weight to back people down on offense in the low post, he just needs to be able to finish when required.
Defensive Grade: A
As bad as Perkins is at the offensive end of the court, the defensive end is where he manages to completely redeem himself. His weight makes him a nightmare to try to back down in the low post, and his aggressive approach to it has a regular tendency to throw opposing big men off of their games entirely. There’s a reason a lot of Celtics players in Boston were very unhappy to see him go.
Key for improvement - There’s not much to improve. The only thing he could do to help his defense at this point is strengthen his knee so that he could block shots easier. At his age though, that isn’t very likely to happen.
Perkins was literally reduced to tears when he learned that the Celtics were dealing him to the Thunder. Boston had been his home for nearly 8 years, and he’d developed very tight friendships with a lot of Celtics players. He averaged 10.1 PPG in his last full season with the Celtics. His largest PPG average with the Thunder was 5.1 in his first full season with the squad. It has been dropping steadily since. While a bad attitude may be an asset in some areas, it’s an obvious liability in others. That’s why Perkins’ biggest strength also happens to be his greatest weakness.
Key for improvement - I don’t see anything that can be done in regards to his attitude at this stage. At 29, Perkins is who he is at this point. You pretty much have to take the good with the bad.
Overall Grade: C
Again, Perkins is who he is, and he’s not changing for anyone at this point. He will never be the answer to your offensive woes, but when it comes to defense in the paint, not many in the game are as well-equipped to do it. With the shortage of quality NBA bigs, Perkins still has starting potential for a team in desperate need of a defender with attitude, or a team in need of some toughness. But his eventual exit from Oklahoma City is beginning to look as inevitable as the promotion of Steven Adams to the starting 5 spot. The Miami Heat have supposedly expressed interest in a trade for him, so the odds of him even donning a Thunder jersey for his contract year are beginning to look more and more slim, depending on what the Heat are willing to offer for him. I’m beginning to wonder if the NBA Championship ring he won with the Celtics in ’08 satiated his hunger, and the following trade to the Thunder dulled his passion for the game of basketball itself. Seeing as next season is the last one of his current contract, I have a feeling we’re about to find out just how much hunger he has left.