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Establishing The Value Of Perk Defensively

There’s no doubt Kendrick Perkins has impressed in his two games back of action, moving more fluidly and delivering a vastly needed interior presence in place of the injured Shaquille O’Neal, much more so than I could have ever expected after after a six plus month layoff.

There’s one area of the C’s game though that I had expected to see more of a dropoff though in Perk’s absence during the first half of the year and that’s the defense. Statistically, the team is still 2nd in the league in defensive rating, with a virtually identical number to last year at this juncture of the season.

Now, let’s not be foolish. Around here, we all know the power of Perk on the defensive end and how much his toughness, rebounding, post defense, you name it matters to this team. Still, I was very curious to see what Rob Mahoney of The New York Times Off The Dribble Blog would surmise in his evaluation of whether Kendrick Perkins is a great defender. Mahoney does a great job of digging into the numbers and seeing whether Perk gets his due, numbers wise of how important he is to the team’s D. Here’s a bit more of Mahoney’s premise

There are established role players, however, whom even the more advanced stats do not illuminate all that brightly. It’s surprising given his reputation as a strong interior defender and his team’s success with him as a pivotal part of the rotation, but the Celtics’ Kendrick Perkins -– who returned to action on Tuesday night after missing the entire season thus far -– is not living up to his defensive standing. Upon looking for meaningful statistical impact with the same metrics that touted Battier, it would seem that Perkins’ time on the court isn’t all that beneficial.

Perkins’ per-game averages have never been all that impressive, but oddly enough, the box score may provide his most direct statistical comfort. Last season, Perkins averaged 10.1 points and 7.6 rebounds in just 27.6 minutes, which translates to 13.2 points and 9.9 rebounds per 36 minutes. Not bad, really, even if it doesn’t begin to approach his perceived defensive import. Yet if we turn to the kinds of criteria that made Battier a “star,” Perkins is oddly sub-par. Over his last two seasons of action, Perkins has posted a -5.76 adjusted plus/minus, one of the worst marks in the league. Adjusted plus/minus is far from infallible, but characteristically it favors guys who fall in line with Perkins’ reputation: tough-defending, solid-rebounding, low-usage role players on winning teams. Adjusted on/off measures are supposed to be where Perkins shines, and yet the numbers show him as a genuine hindrance.

When we look at the same measures of individual defensive success that served as a gold star for Battier, Perkins’ individual defense doesn’t hold up, either. In each of his last two seasons, Perkins has allowed opposing centers to produce at an above average rate, a curiosity for a well-regarded player whose primary contributions come on the defensive end.

That last part seems particularly contrary; Perkins is perhaps most renowned for his one-on-one defense against Orlando’s Dwight Howard in the playoffs, and in those instances, he played well as an integral part of the Celtics’ defensive game plan. Yet according to these metrics, Perkins doesn’t make the Celtics better. Is this really just another case of statistics offering clarification where our observations fail?

Be sure to check out the full article by clicking the link here. A great and intriguing read overall.

  • complexity

    I've wondered this all year. But of the choices we have for a center, I think it's clear that Perkins is the best one.

  • WEVIL

    Numbers just don’t tell everything that perkins brings to the team defensively and just as a presence on the court. His return two games earlier brought the entire garden to its feet and even though the numbers don’t support it, he’s a big roleplayer on the court

  • TedL

    I'm surprised his plus/minus isn't better. Maybe this reflects his regression at the offensive end. His p and r defense, and his adjustments generally to help against penetrators, seem really great.

  • kricky

    I just hate all this stats BS. It's ruined social science and now these bozos want to apply it to spots. If you let this Douche or Hollinger put together a team I guarantee you wouldn't make the playoffs.

    Watch the damn game.

    • Chris O

      Agreed Kricky, this isn't baseball where you can jut put up players numbers in their individual vacuum. I find a lot of Hollinger's analysis to be either overbearing or completely unproven, and a lot of times he seems to reach for correlation equals causation.

  • koolaid

    I love perk, but of all the Cs, he is definitely the hardest to evaluate his net impact (defense minus offense). For example, sheed ran out of gas during game7, but i thought he brought a lot to the team that game – very difficult to evaluate the net impact compared to if perk were in there (D rebounding would have better, probably less offense). That said, Perk brings his work ethic, team first attitude, and competitive fire with him every night and that has huge positive effect on the whole team. And he is a great compliment to KG (on both ends).

    Guess his upcoming contract negotiations will shed some light on how Ainge evaluates his contributions… and with basically 10s of millions on the line for him over how he plays the rest of the season… he'll have even a little more motivatation than usual. He just seems like a 'celtics for life' kinda guy.

    BTW: Is it just me or does Perks footwork actually look better than before the injury? Even though he has been extra beserk Perk because he has been burning to play for so long, his feet seem more controlled with the ball in his hands. Or are my eyes playing tricks on me?

    • TedL

      Re his footwork, I hope it's real. Maybe he's learned something watching from the bench, and just growing up.

      His happy feet have been such a disappointment. He's got the tools, he just needs the attitude. He doesn't even need any great moves on this team- just be in position to receive the ball and finish at the rim without traveling or hesitating.

  • skeeds

    well, one thing that causes much of these is the following:
    Perk registered heavy minutes during the teams dreadfull post-allstar break run to .5 last year, but 0 minutes this season, where the C's are white-hot. That drops every stat having to do with the Celtics performance with-without him.
    His performance against Howard can't be compared to much, because pretty much only him and Bogut play Howard 1-1 in the post. Offcourse he's not as effective as Turiaf+Stoudemire for example. Fact is though, it keeps the rest of the Magic from getting open.
    Oh, and how can you compare a Center to Shane Battier?

    But in the end, whatever the numbers, anyone watching the NBA knows this. When a big man plays back to the basket, there are 3-4 players in the league you'd feel comfortable stopping him. And Perk is one of them.

    • Chris O

      Exactly, Perk can one on one cover anyone in the paint, be it Howard or previously Shaq. Last year we were spoiled having Perk and Sheed who could both do that. Perk more with brute force, Sheed with trickery and veteran guile.

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