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.