Today’s victim: Kendrick Perkins.
Perk has been back in the Celtics lineup for eight games now and from the eye test, I think we’ve all been pleased. First off, he clearly spent a ton of time in the weight room during his rehab as he looks leaner and stronger through his upper body than he’s been in any previous year. He’s also been moving well on the court – so well, in fact, that if you didn’t know he’d been hurt, you wouldn’t know he’d been hurt. As a result, his defense is well on the way back to where it was before he got hurt.
The only real observable physical concern has been with his cardiovascular conditioning. He’s sucked wind at times and Doc Rivers has avoided playing him longer than seven straight minutes. But otherwise, it has been all systems go.
Perkins recently turned 26, which means he should be in his early prime years, and adding new things to his game every summer. The Celtics came into 2010-11 looking for growth and improvement from Rajon Rondo (almost 25) and Glen Davis (just turned 25) and both players have delivered.
Is it possible that even with his long rehab, Perk can do the same?
The early signs are intriguing, if indecisive. They suggest that, so far, Perk has exceeded expectations on the glass, while underwhelming in other categories where you’d expect to see rust due to poor timing or limited game reps (turnovers, blocks and shooting). Those latter three will likely improve as he gets more time on the court. As for the rebounding, well, that’s the interesting area, because no matter how you spin the numbers, Perk looks like a huge improvement over any Celtic not named Kevin Garnett.
The last three years, Perk has recorded defensive rebound rates (DRR) of 19.3, 21.4, and 24.4. So far this year, he’s at 29.5, a number that ties him with Garnett for the team lead, and one which would rank him sixth overall in the league (as context, the third best guy on the team, Shaquille O’Neal, has a DRR of 20.3, good for only 59th in the league).
Sure, it’s a small sample size but wouldn’t you expect Perk to struggle with his rebounding early on, rather than excel, particularly given some of the teams the Celtics have faced in the last eight games: Orlando (2nd overall in rebounding rate), the Lakers (3rd), Charlotte (5th), and Sacramento (10th).
Here, I’d suggest that Perk may actually be rebounding as poorly now as we’ll see him rebound all year. Spin that around your head. It’s incredible to think how strong this Celtics team could be on the defensive glass with two top-ten defensive rebounders patrolling the paint. And all those rebounds would do wonders to spur the transition attack and generate more opportunities for easy baskets, a key factor come playoff time.
On the offensive glass, the early returns are far less notable in terms of year-over-year improvement, with Perk sitting at an ORR of 8.8. However, that figure does set him second on the team behind the infrequently-used Luke Harangody (9.3). Accounting for minutes-played, Perk will soon be the #1 generator of second chance opportunities for this team.
The other areas are harder of Perk’s game are harder to assess right now by numbers:
- Perk apparently spent considerable time practicing free throws and taking jumpers while he rehabbed, but nothing about his shooting numbers leaps out as significant. He’s shooting only 44.4% from the line while his 58.3 fg% falls right into line with his career average of 56%.
- Turnovers have been a career-long weakness of Perk’s game and nothing’s changed this year. Lifetime, he’s at 23%. That’s a “bottom-5 in the whole league” kinda figure. Impressively, Perk’s actually turning the ball over at an even higher rate so far this year (.242) but was down at .204 last year – a career low (if still a very unimpressive figure). This one reeks of “needs more time to get comfortable” and perhaps he can drive it under 20% by the playoffs. But of all the places he might improve, this one seems the biggest stretch. He’s just a turnover machine.
- Perk’s also way down on his block rate (2.2 vs last year’s 4.8). He’s made reference to this, noting that his timing on blocks is off right now.
Finally, a couple of facts for you:
Fun Fact: Perk has 67 total rebounds so far this year, or 3 more than Jermaine O’Neal recorded in more than double that number of games (17 vs. 8).
Not-So-Fun Fact: Garnett, by the way, is a terrible offensive rebounder, by rate. He’s at 5.0, a shade above Rondo’s 4.7. Of the 137 qualified PFs and Cs in the league, KG ranks 123rd overall in ORR. Spin that any way you want with talk of Doc’s disinterest in offensive rebounding, but the fact remains – KG doesn’t generate second chance opportunities, except by clearing space with his body, and similar such un-measurables.