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The Perkins Trade: An Offensive Move

 

“We’ve got to find ways to score, and no matter how great a defensive team you are, you still have to score enough points and sometimes, that’s been our biggest challenge.”Danny Ainge

As a Celtics fan, watching the C’s-Nuggets game last night was a painful endeavor. You had a defeated team, emotionally drained after being blindsided by the trade of one of their brothers just hours earlier. And yet as the undermanned roster fought valiantly through the challenging circumstance, it was an all too familiar scenario that left them on the short end of a 89-75 defeat. A six minute scoring drought to end the game as the Nuggets went on a 16-0 run to end things.

Now before we go any further, let me reiterate I’m well aware of the countless disadvantages the C’s had going into that contest in Denver. They had every excuse in the world not to win that game, all extremely understandable ones I might add.

Yet, the lack of scoring punch last night was just an example of a much bigger problem this Celtics team has faced for the past couple years: an inability to consistently put the ball in the basket when it matters.

That need to score and in turn, upgrade this team’s offense, to me, was the main motivating factor in this team’s trade of Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson, for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic. There were obviously several factors that went into this deal (future contracts, big man depth, etc.) but the need for offense stands out the most.

You see, the Celtics have been a middle of the road offensive team for about two years now. Things were different once upon a time. Back in 2007-08, the Celtics were a top 10 offensive squad (110.2 points/100 possessions). The C’s had their big three, a developing Rajon Rondo, and flanked them with outside shooters named James Posey, Eddie House and eventually Sam Cassell.

That formula, combined with some young studs who could do the dirty work down low (Leon Powe, Glen Davis) and a big man with range (P.J. Brown) allowed the Celtics to bring home Banner 17.

It was a team effort and historians will point to the this squad’s tremendous defense for its success and while the D was a critical component, the team’s offense in the playoffs (109.4 points/100 possessions, slightly below a top 10 offense) wasn’t shabby either, highlighted by the offensive explosion in game six to clinch the title.

Make no mistake, the defense was phenomenal, but the offense was a pretty big player throughout that playoff run as well, and without it, that team would have come up short.

Now let’s fast forward to last season. The Celtics sleepwalked their way through the second half of the regular season, mostly thanks to injuries. Compared to 2007-08 though, there was a fallback on the offensive end. The team reverted to and average team in offensive efficiency, posting 107.7 points/100 possessions, (15th in NBA), yet still remained a top five defense.

As we all know, this squad began to get things together and made a historic postseason run to game 7 of the NBA Finals. Many point to the absence of Perk in that final game as the team’s fatal flaw as the Lakers grabbed rebound after rebound over the shorthanded Boston front line. A closer inspection of the C’s point total in that game (79) and in that series as a whole revealed a larger issue for this team: the offense.

Game 1: 89 (L)
Game 2: 103 (W)
Game 3: 84 (L)
Game 4: 96 (W)
Game 5: 92 (W)
Game 6: 67 (L)
Game 7: 79 (L)

As the C’s faced elite defenses, they regularly ran into trouble putting the ball in the basket. In fact, for that entire playoff run, Boston posted a anemic 104.8 points/100 possession, three points below their regular season average and five points below the team that made the title run in 2008.

The defense during that 2010 playoff run? It was even better, at least statistically than the 2008 NBA Finals team in the playoffs with a stingy 101.7 points allowed/100 possessions, two points below the team that won the title two years earlier in its run.

So, you may be sitting there and wondering 600 words or so into this article…..what the hell does this have to do with dealing Kendrick Perkins? Follow me out on this folks.

Here’s a shocking bit of news for everyone. This year’s team, numbers wise, is worse offensively than last year’s squad, even after it “rested” through the second half of the regular season. It’s only a slight dropoff (107.7 to 107.1 this year in offensive rating) but that’s still a stepback.

Obviously there have been a lot of mitigating factors here, including a bevy of injuries to the team’s roster. Through it all though the team’s main offensive weapons (Paul Pierce and Ray Allen) have been healthy and putting up tremendous numbers. Yet this team remains a middle of the road offensive squad, that has to work incredibly hard for its offense.

Danny knew this and knew he had to try to upgrade this team’s bench. I believe he really explored every avenue he could to do this without trading Perk. The problem was, as we will know, he had no assets. Nate Robinson’s value dropped off the face of the earth with his shooting this year, as he became an overpriced and undersized guard.

Semih Erden had promise, but had multiple injuries. Luke Harangody was, well, Luke Harangody. Avery Bradley, well there’s a guy you could make an argument about, but he’s cheap labor and only 20 years old so Ainge wanted to hold on to him.

So what was Danny left with? The move he probably had in his back pocket all along, but didn’t want to make unless he had no choice. Take away from your team’s defense and rebounding, while significantly upgrading the offense with a James Posey-esque player who can space the floor and take some scoring onus off the starters.

He also managed to shed a bad contract (Nate) while grabbing a serviceable center, who is a real offensive upgrade and spaces the floor well (44 percent shooting from 16-23 feet).

Now is this move a home run? Absoutely not. It could easily blow up in Ainge’s face. A full judgment can’t be made until the team fills out the rest of the roster with buyouts, but it’s safe to say a lot now rides on the fragile legs of the illegitimate O’Neal brothers.

Taking Perk out of the locker room and messing with a team’s chemistry that was 40-15 and at the top of the Eastern Conference 99 percent of the time isn’t a wise choice. The continuity factor the C’s starting lineup had playing together for four years is gone. That’s critical too. There are plenty of real issues to go with this, along with the fact that Glen Davis is perhaps getting the biggest vote of confidence with the move and his ability to guard big men like Dwight Howard one-on-one.

The thing Danny was trying to do though was be proactive.   Not for next year, but for the playoff run. He needed offense, and in order to get the level of help he thought he needed, he took a significant piece of the defense away, though someone who did not play for the final five minutes of most games anyway.

I’ll let Ainge explain it the best here, in his appearance on CSN last night:

“Our problem, we’ve been a very good defensive team, we’ve had great success, I think the challenge we’ve gone through the past couple years and we go in these offensive droughts, and basketball is played on both ends of the court. We’ve got to find a way to get easy baskets.”

Are Green and Krstic and the Celtics to-be-named later the guys to get those easy baskets? That remains to be seen. For now though, the realization has to be that the desperate need for offense was the underlying motivating factor for this move against a revamped and offensively explosive Eastern Conference.

  • srb

    Never thought I'd say this but… Hurry back Shaq

    Also I read somewhere yesterday that the Cavs may cut Leon Powe… anybody??????

    • NHBluesMan

      as much as i love Powe, he just hasn't been the same since his knee injuries

  • celticfan

    the game last night showed a team that is lost.i hope Danny and Doc, are proud of them selfs. this was a tight team and now it is broken. it will never be the same team.Doc and Danny just handed the banner to another team.unless a miracle happen this is going to be just like any other team now. it takes a while to get to know your teammates… and doing something like this so close to the playoff was stupid.these guys had a Rhythm going and now it's gone.

    • dslack

      Well, look, I'm not a huge fan of the move either, but before declaring it a total failure, let's see how it actually works out. It's true that they won't be the SAME team, but that doesn't mean they can't gel together and be a better team.

      I think it will be tough. But their listless performance in one high-altitude, undermanned, demoralized post-trade game (without either of the incoming players) is not necessarily a portent of the way the rest of the season will go.

    • mark

      the problem last night was offense and you think perk would have helped with that? I don t think so. Good move Danny and if Davis keeps trying to post up and getting the ball packed down his mouth than he needs to go too

  • http://www.leftysturn.blogspot.com mackyp4

    Thank you. I think I can speak for many of C's fans that we needed to hear the potential positives for this trade. Yesterday's trade still hurts.

  • Batman

    Brian, Danny Savitzky thinks that Shaq didn't want to come off the bench so he forced out Perkins. What do you think

    • dslack

      That sounds ridiculous. Shaq has no such pull. He's not even playing at all now. An injured, 20-minute-per-game-maximum player does not have the ability to force Danny to trade an 8-year veteran.

  • lakershater13

    As much as i like Leon I dont see the need. Another 6'8 PF? We have Davis and KG at the 4 and Doc wants to play Green at the 4. If we get Murphy we really have no need for Powe.

  • SteveB

    After a day to digest the trades I'm coming to terms, slightly. Losing Perk is an emotional reaction as much as anything. On paper one could say, you filled a glaring need and gained offense. In addition you risked losing Perkins to free agency with nothing back. It almost seemed that trading Semih worsened the trade because you realized he was a young, healthy and cheap big. That part of the equation can't be determined until we pick up someone from buyouts or D league. That and of course the O'Neals coming back semi-healthy.
    Until things shake out and the team gets a chance to regroup emotionally I don't think the angry mobs should be after Danny. How would they have felt if no deals were made and we lost Perk for nothing over the summer and still had no banner #18?
    I see the Celtics of the future being more of a running team to keep up with Rondo. Here's to Danny making some nice moves in the days ahead.

    • Jmt

      Losing Semih didn't make sense, but it does a bit more with the Chris Johnson signing. He's got just as much length and is a better defender. His offense might not be polished (haven't seen enough to make a judgement), but he's certainly more athletic than Semih which will help with alley-oops & putbacks.

      • SteveB

        I'm hoping. I DVR'd the game so I still have to watch it all. I wish I got the Mike and Tommy feed instead of TNT. Long and athletic are not words associated with the Celtics lately.

  • kricky

    Good analysis and great use of numbers here. Offense (especially form the bench) has been a problem this year.

    But I think the bigger problem with the team is rebounding. How much does it hurt to play great D for an entire posession and then give up an offensive board?

    And with these moves our rebounding numbers may just fall off the cliff.

  • kricky

    So sad. I Love Leon. He gave us so much during the title run.

  • dslack

    Brian, nice post. I'm skeptical that it will work, but I recognize the team needed better offense. Seeing the trade happen makes me wonder whether Danny tried to trade for Deron Williams, too. I wouldn't be surprised if he offered Rondo for Deron to upgrade the offense. He's a mad scientist. I just hope it works.

  • Avinash

    Why is everybody not couting on Krstic? At the very least we have his body to through at the center position. Why everybody mentioning only O'neal brothers?

    Even if we dont have both O'neals if we can sign Murphy then BBD can play at 5 along with Kristic. I really don't understand why everybody is magnifying this. If we have O'neal brothers,Kristic, Murphy,KG,BBD thats a solid front court. And Green can play 4 too if we want to go small. I agree that the defense takes a little hit but its not like Danny blowed everything up.C'mon guys cheer up and be positive.

    • ElRoz

      Kristic can knock down mid-range jumpers…has a good touch…West, Wafer, Kristic, Green, Davis is a pretty good scoring bench…better AND somewhat bigger than the previous one: Green for Daniels, Delonter and Wafer for Nate, Kristic for Semih. Seems like a clear improvement…IF Shaq can come back and start, that is.

  • kricky

    Simmons just posted a great column on the trade on ESPN:
    http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=s

    He quotes his dad: "… he was truly part of our team," Dad said. "I don't want to root for laundry. I watched that guy for eight years. That should mean something. Continuity should mean something.".

    These days with everything controlled by the market and players moving left and right we can no longer really grow to love a team the way they could back in the day. Sad.

  • Chris O

    We need 2 of the following players (GULP) Troy Murphy, Dalembert, Marcus Camby or dare I even mention Rasheed. If we have two of those players fill out the roster along with another 2/3 we will be in prime position. Even though I love PERK (the Beast) and will miss him. Jeff Green is now the hier apparent to Pierce and the main scorer off the bench. We need two of those 4 I mentioned or we may not have the frontline to do much in the playoffs (word is Murphy, Dalembert and Camby will be bought out).

    • ElRoz

      Well I'd love to get Murphy or Dalembert (isn't Camby hurt?) but where are they going to play: BBD subs KG, Kristic subs Shaq. Of course if Shaq is a big question right now, then sure, they need to get another center or pf. But 2 from the list above? Why?

      • Chris O

        I would sub Dalembert in defensive situations all the itme. I would play him above Krstic unless the extra O was needed

  • ElRoz

    A becnh of Delonte, Wafer, Kristic, Green, and Davis seems a rather good offensive bunch. And not particularly small at any position, with Green as SF especially. IF Shaq comes back in some health and plays with the staters, this bench has the offense and the size over the previous one – Green for Daniels, Wafer for Nate, Kristic for Semih/JO. To me this is a clear improvement of the bench.

    The big questions of course Shaq's health (and as a bonus JO's return)…and if the rest of the season is enough to get Green and Kristic into the flow of the team.

  • Dropstep

    Everybody gets mad at Carmelo for dragging out his trade and they get mad at LeBron for the decision but players get traded all the time without any say over where they go. We call for loyalty from players but hardly put the same level of expectation on management. Perhaps, loyalty shouldn't even be a part of talking about sports franchises. Maybe, if you want to win, you have to be ruthlessly logical.

    It hurts to see Perk go and in lastnight's game, his rebounding was sorely missed. I think Garnett pulled down 13 rebounds and we still got outrebounded by 10+. Don't they teach players how to box-out properly? Anyway, after a really emotional reaction yesterday, I'm thinking more clearly about the trade and am hopeful that it will workout particularly with whoever Danny plan to fill the roster out with. I really hope Doc plays Green at the 3 and that he's better than he was at the 4 in OKC. We're putting alot into hope (Shaq, JO, etc.) with this trade. I don't want to be thinking "when we get healthy" for the rest of the season.

    • Dropstep

      I wish the best to all the players – Quis, Semih (who I really liked), Harangody, Nate (despite his brainfarts, really liked) and Perk who I will still root for since OKC is my 2nd favorite team and my team out West. If we somehow meet in the finals though, lol Celts all the way!

    • Chris O

      They teach boxing out, the NBA is just very lax at calling over the back in this day in age, like palming, carrying and traveling it is an abused rule.

  • michael

    Nate's wasn't a bad contract. The only bad contract on the entire team is Jermaine O'Neal's, which was an incredibly stupid gamble to begin with and looks even worse in retrospect. That and the Tony Allen deal are a real influence on the corner the C's were put in this position in the first place.

  • Zee

    Good read. Finally some sense of it all.

  • Zee

    OKC plays Orlando tonight. I wonder if Perk will start.

    • Guest

      Zee – Perk has the strained MCL in his knee so he will be out at least a week.

  • kricky

    In the "it's time to move on no matter how pissed we still are" department:

    Rick Bucher reports we just signed Murphy and we are front-runners for Powe. Kapono also a possibility.

    It will be very interesting to see how all these pieces will fit together. I'm not very optimistic. But we don't really have a choice.

    • Chris O

      I like Murphy, I don't want Powe and Kapono, why are we stocking up on dudes WHO CAN'T PLAY D.

  • Mariya

    Thank you so much, Brian. I gotta say I was extremely hurt from the trade all day today. But coming home and reading this really uplifted my spirits. This made so much sense. We definitely needed a boost on the offensive end. I still don't think Perk should have had to leave in order to make that happen, but I understand some sacrifices had to be made. I look forward to the rest of the season and the playoffs, and I still believe we can bring home banner 18 this summer. Also, I'm gonna miss Perk oh so much. My heart is still heavy from the news. But I wish him the best.

    P.S. I really hope Shaq comes back healthy and strong. If not, this trade will seem even more stupid than it did when we first heard about it.

  • torpid bunny

    I wonder how much the loss of Daniels played into this trade. The other side of it is that the celtics second unit has been very poor at times. How many leads has the bench squandered? They absolutely had to get depth at 3. In fact I would say that with no viable wing help they would not win the championship. Pierce is like an old luxury car at this point. You have to baby his body at times, and he has to guard the best players often. Hopefully with Delonte, an improving Wafer, Green, Baby, and some stiff their second unit will be substantially improved.

  • Carlos R

    According to Danny, Jermaine is doing "fantastic" in his rehab. Does anyone knows something about this?

  • Gay 4 Shaq

    if this team develops Green and maximizes the shit outta him with some luck and health these guys could get 4 rings. He wasnt number 5 pick for nothin

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