OKC Thunder: Could Kendrick Perkins have made a difference in 2016 WCF?

Kendrick Perkins #5, Kevin Durant #35 and Serge Ibaka #9 of the OKC Thunder. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kendrick Perkins #5, Kevin Durant #35 and Serge Ibaka #9 of the OKC Thunder. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

Kendrick Perkins’ revelation he could’ve pushed the OKC Thunder over the top in the 2016 WCF raises more deep-seeded questions.

Although the OKC Thunder franchise is a mere 12 years old they have experienced more highs than lows. Typically a new team takes a while to build their program to the point where they are perennial playoff seeds or have a shot at winning the title.

Case in point, the defending champion Toronto Raptors took five years to get to the postseason. It was 20 years before they reached the Eastern Conference Finals and they won the title in their first visit which was their 24th year of existence.

When you compare the OKC Thunder to Toronto it’s hard not to feel fortunate for how often they’ve been a playoff squad. Consider the fact the Thunder has been to the postseason in all but two seasons; the inaugural season (2008-09) and 2014-15 when the team dealt with copious injuries. Moreover, the Thunder has already made it to an NBA Finals although they lost to the Miami Heat when LeBron James won his first title.

At the time, many thought it was just the first of many Finals for the young squad who boasted three young stars who would each earn the Most Valuable Player in future seasons. Everyone knows how that played out as James Harden was traded the year immediately following that Finals trip and Kevin Durant elected to leave in free agency to join the 73-9 Golden State Warriors.

That latter fact became a sore spot for the franchise since they held a 3-1 advantage over the Dubs in the 2016 Western Conference Finals but failed to close them out.

Back when the Thunder made their first run Sam Presti elected to add certain veterans to help push them over the top including Kendrick Perkins and Derek Fisher. Both had won titles with former teams and it was felt their presence would be vital to teaching the young trio what it took to win the Larry O’B.

Although their presence definitely helped the question is whether the absence of these vets in 2016 from the roster made a difference. For his part, Kendrick Perkins believes it did.

Perk told Joe Vardon of the paid-for subscription The Athletic he feels his locker room presence would’ve taken the Thunder over the top. He also states that a deal almost happened in the middle of the season when Sam Presti tried to reacquire Perkins from New Orleans but that then Pelicans General Manager Dell Demps didn’t bite.

There is much more tied to the Dell Demps portion of The Athletic article as well as much more about the Thunder, KD, and Russ. Click the link above and read the article in its entirety – it’s worth your time.

As for whether Perkins would’ve made a difference in the summer of 2016 – it’s hard to say since the issue was Klay Thompson going off on OKC in the second half of Game 6 and the officials (at least from this vantage point) calling suspect fouls on Andre Roberson.

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Perhaps Perk would’ve delivered a body jarring screen to Klay but barring that happening it’s hard to imagine the Splash Brother could’ve been stopped. He’s just one of those players that when he gets hot there is no one who can stop him as Dre discovered when he finally checked back into that fateful Game 6.

Revisiting that match both Durant and Westbrook struggled in the second half electing to go iso-ball and do the your turn – my turn sequence which felt like it took years off our lives watching.

Yet, the fact Presti was intent on getting Perkins back to OKC raises the question of whether there were already issues with team chemistry.

The big man was close with both Westbrook and Durant so perhaps the OKC Thunder GM was looking for a calming voice or someone the duo each respected. With the franchise one of the best at keeping in-house information under lock and key it’s not like this is information likely to be divulged. Not unless Perkins decides to open up with more details, but he wasn’t with the team so even that scenario seems unlikely.

Perhaps the bigger question is if the Thunder had beaten the Warriors would Kevin Durant have remained with the OKC Thunder and more importantly could they have beat the Cavaliers who came back from the same deficit (3-1) to win the title? So many what if’s tied to this one comment from Perk.

Thunder re-grade: Add Mitch McGary to a long line of what ifs. dark. Next

What do you think? Could Perk have made a difference?