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Is Perk A Problem for OKC vs. Dallas?


The Kendrick Perkins trade debate will not die out anytime soon when it comes to the 2010-11 Boston Celtics. For now whoever, I, like most Celtics fans, are interested observers of the former starting Celtic center on the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals. And for the first time this postseason, as Oklahoma City faces a 2-1 series deficit, John Hollinger of ESPN.com spends a good amount of his latest piece on the former Celtic and the problems he poses for the Thunder during the Dallas series.

I’m not in complete agreement here with Hollinger, but it’s definitely good food for thought on the guy whose clearly playing at 80 or so percent as he continues to recover from ACL surgery.

The Thunder’s starting lineup once again dug a huge hole for them, falling behind by double-digits early. It was the third straight game this series that Oklahoma City trailed with its starting five on the floor.

In the three games, Oklahoma City has been outscored 39-17 in the opening minutes of the first quarter until a reserve checks into the game. Overall, the deficit to begin each half is 57-31. Take those minutes away and the Thunder are comfortably outscoring Dallas.

To put a finer point on things, let’s replace the word “starters” with “Kendrick Perkins.” In his 82 minutes on the court, the Thunder have been outscored by a whopping 32 points. In his 62 minutes on the bench, the advantage has titled nearly as strongly the other way: The Thunder are plus-23.

And those slow starts? They’ve magically ended at the exact second Perkins departed. Oklahoma City trailed by five in Game 1 before he went out, by nine in Game 2, and by 15 in this one — 29 points worth of deficits to make up the rest of the night. The Thunder overcame it in Game 2 by scoring on nine straight possessions right after Perk went to the bench; in the other two games, the hill was too big to climb.

Of course, this could just be noise. Sometimes plus-minus fluctuates randomly for reasons that have little to do with a player’s performance. After watching the three games, however, this isn’t one of those cases. For starters, Perkins has made a limited statistical contribution, with only 11 points and 14 rebounds in the three games. His main function seemed to be going out of his way to run into Tyson Chandler off the ball.

I don’t want to diminish Perkins’ value in general. The Thunder people will tell you in gushing detail about his crunching screens, and what a smart, communicating defender he is, and how his physicality sets a tone. Against the right opponent, this can be enormously valuable … just ask Orlando.

The problem is that the Mavs aren’t that opponent, and Perkins played 30 minutes anyway. That was the most of any Oklahoma City big man. Collison and Ibaka played only 24 minutes, and Nazr Mohammed didn’t play at all.

One can also argue that Perkins’ weaknesses are magnified because he plays with another non-scorer, Thabo Sefolosha. Like Perkins, Sefolosha’s strengths are wasted in this series because Dallas lacks a great wing scorer. Meanwhile, it’s too easy for opponents to load up on Durant and Westbrook at the start of games, which is exactly what’s happened in each of the first three contests until Collison and Harden come in.

All of which creates a thorny issue for the Thunder. Their best team going forward has Perkins at center, especially a year from now when his surgically repaired knee is in better shape. I still believe that.

But their best chance of winning this series is with Perkins playing a much more limited role. Thus, they have to risk upsetting their centerpiece big man — much as Scott Brooks risked upsetting Westbrook by benching him at the end of Game 2 — and deploying small lineups and Ibaka-Collison combinations much more readily. If they aren’t willing to yank Perkins from the starting lineup entirely (they could even start Mohammed to avoid ruffling the bench rotation), at the very least they need to cut his 30 minutes from Saturday to a few scraps at the start of each half.

Again, I don’t want to pin all this on Perk; he wasn’t the one shooting all those bricks. But the cold shooting was a one-game phenomenon; the Perkins effect has been all series. Until or unless it changes, the Thunder’s playoff run is unlikely to continue much longer.

What say you CelticsHubbers? We know Perk just as well as anybody. Is he at all to blame for the slow OKC starts?

  • duggyfresh88

    I usually dislike Hollinger and find most of what he writes to be trash. I cringed before I read this. But, this is probably one of his better pieces. He seems to be right on, and he doesn't trash Perk. All he is saying is that Perk doesn't match up well in this series so his role should be more limited. Which is probably true and fair to say.

    • Morpheus

      Dammit i gave you a thumbs up when i read "Hollinger is trash" then continued to read that he was right. UGH. Take my thumbs up as thumbs down.

      • duggyfresh88

        Haha. I do think Hollinger is trash though. I can't stand 95% of his opinions. I am however open minded and gave this article a chance, and he was kind of right.

  • Alvarez

    “For now whoever, I, like most Celtics fans, are interested observers of the former starting Celtic center on the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals”
    I’m a fan, but this is terrible writing. While I’m sure ‘whoever’ was just a typo (for however), “I…are interested observers” is just lazy. Proofread, so literate people can make it past the first paragraph next time.

    • MP!

      Why don't you eff off? A grammar mistake doesn't make someone who's probably more literate than you are lazy.

      • Hank Single

        But it did make me cringe. And it seems it made Alvarez feel the same. If bad writing were taken to task at the pace it presented itself, it's possible we'd have less. If you're willing to read an article that gets on Perk for maybe not doing his job so well ( and, if we're honest, he's been playing like crap all through the play-offs) I don't see why the guy whose job it is to write about it should be let off the hook for not doing his.

        • http://celticsboard.net NickFaldo

          Thank you Alvarez and Hank. Brian Robb is the problem for Celtics Hub. He needs to take writing courses. He wrote, "I’m not in complete agreement here with Hollinger, but it’s definitely good food for thought on the guy whose clearly playing at 80 or so percent as he continues to recover from ACL surgery." Robb writes like he's some dumbass, ninth grade level jock Look at his use of the word "whose." I'm assuming this guy got a liberal arts degree from Boston College. If so, it's more evidence of how corrupt this society is. A 100 grand was spent, yet this kid doesn't even know how to write. That's pitiful and disgusting.

  • johnschaffer

    perk is still not a true basketball center , hes good for 4 points a game ans sometimes a whopping 5 rebounds but then again he gives up 4 or 5 fouls a game and at least one tech??? that means he gives up more points than he scores

    • duggyfresh88

      You couldn't be more wrong. You must have just taken your diapers off and started watching basketball 2 years ago. Perk is a true center. Educate yourself

  • skeeds

    well, to be completely honest, although I adored Perk, there's a lot of truth in this. I've watched all the Thunder's games against the Mavs, and many of their previous. His advertised defensive mindedness, that had the NBA raving about him when he was traded, is, actually, nowhere. From underrated to overrated just like that.

    And I think I know why. I'm sorry to point it out, but Perk never really controlled the paint. Perk and KG did. That's a whole different story… It's different playing 2nd fiddle to arguably one of the best defenders the game has ever seen, and different having to work with Ibaka. In a wider sence, it's a lot easier playing defence in a group who's worst defender is Ray Allen. There's so much less to do. Perk's talents are limited, but in the Celtics' way of doing things, it was exactly appropriate.

    And it's all the worse on the offensive end. He can't be a non contributor, in a team with 2 go-to scorers. He has to score more. Whereas in the C's there were 4 great scorers every second he was on the floor. Perk could have 2 points a night and go to the Finals.

    Still, I love the guy, and he's young enough to develop further. Just last night, he made a jumpshot. First of his I've seen, ever. He might have bitten more than he can chew, but he's gonna chew it.

  • Jason

    He hasn't been that good against Dallas and about average to somewhat below-average overall and I think it's been due to injury. One thing that he was always good for as a Celtic was challenging everything he was in range of. His effort couldn't be knocked but there have a lot of instances where he's played with his hands down. Kidd drove the basket yesterday and lofted a floater right over him and Perkins didn't even get a hand up. It was very unlike him but that's happened a ton during his time as a Thunder. I think he's still heavy-legged (well, more than usual) and not as well-conditioned due to not even being a full year removed from his injury, much less his surgery.

    Even at well less than 100 percent, I still think he would have helped more than say, Big Baby. He's still a better rebounder and would have been the best offensive rebounder on the Celtics. Since Davis wasn't scoring a lot anyway, Perkins' rebounding on both ends could have made a difference. The last three games against the Heat were very close and a few second-hand points more for the Celtics a few less for the Heat could have been the difference in those games.

    • skeeds

      In hindsight, he'd be more useful, no doubt. If Baby managed to play as well as we expected him to, it would be a whole different story…

  • Morpheus

    I agree that Perk, as of right now, isn't helping the Thunder, especially in minutes played. I also agree that while he's struggling now, once his knees get stronger, he'll be much more valuable to that starting lineup in 2012. That's the crux of it really, he's not 100% yet and Brooks needs to realise this and play him less till he gets his knees back. I'm sure Perk will understand and take it like a champ.

    Nazr is a capable starter, or at least capable of providing what Perk brings with more offense.

  • Morpheus

    And no, he is not responsible for the slow starts. Westbrick alone can shoot you out of a quarter. I just think Brooks needs to adjust a little bit with his lineups.

  • printer

    “Proofread, so literate people can make it past the first paragraph next time. ”

    After more than 20 years in the production end of the publishing business, I can tell you what anyone else with similar experience would: it is not possible for someone to effectively, consistently proofread their own work. This is why proofreading is a separate step, performed by a person other than the author, editor, or typesetter.

    You may believe that you can effectively, consistently proofread your own work, but you are wrong, which would be evident given a large enough sample of your writing. Since blogs do not have a separate proofreading step, occasional mistakes are inevitable and people who whine about them with a snotty, superior tone — you, for example — are dicks.

    • http://celticsboard.net NickFaldo

      Thanks for the predictable response, Mr. Conformist Hack. The only reason Brian Robb still writes for CH is because he created it. You're not doing him any favors by downplaying his incompetence.

  • dal

    To put things simply: the playoffs are all about match-ups. Perk is a bad match-up with the hyper-athletic and finesse playing Tyson Chandler. He doesn't bang like a D12. He just goes up, gets it and puts it in.


  • AussieCeltics

    Dallas almost never runs an offence for Chandler in the post which negates Perk's biggest strength. Chandler is very good at hanging around the rim and finishing strongly when his man rotates to the ball or putting back rebounds at the rim – that is all! Then Chandler can give help off of Perk to help on KD or Westbrook at the other end and has the athleticism and length to recover and affect Perk's shots if the ball does go to him – which is rare anyway. Perk is not over the injury yet, but this is just a bad matchup and OKC would be well advised to avoid it!

  • Rex

    Before pinning this on Perk, I'd like to see the +/- on Sefalosha and Harden. Because Harden has been a beast for the Thunder.

  • Zach

    Perk has been awful – he certainly would not have helped us in the post season.

  • Sauce

    Well I always thought Perk was the Big Man you sent out to play the game and D the post, he was never a big scorer or even a little scorer, he banged with Dwight, rebounded some and brought toughness, I don't think you can blame the starters sh*tness just by one guy because I wouldn't say he had that bad an influence on us was he.

  • Brian

    Hollinger is a Fantasy geek posing as a Basketball analyst. I don't put much stock in his opinions. The fact is that the Thunder will have to become a more Defensive oriented team to maximize Perkins value. If they weren't going to make that transition then it was pointless to trade for him. They don't even use Nate at all so he so this trade has been questionable for both teams.

  • Zee
  • kricky

    Dallas does most of its damage on jumpshots. Not a lot of driving to the hoop or posting up. Thus you really don't play to Perk's strengths.

    He may not be helping OKS vs Dallas but he sure as hell would have helped us against the Heat.

  • Eric

    All of this negative buzz about Perk on the OKC validates the Perk trade to some extent. I had a feeling Perk's injury was worse than it seemed when the trade was made. If Ainge truly was trying to win now (or rather, "win then"), he had to suspect that Perk wouldn't be close to 100% for these playoffs. Of course, that's not counting our misplaced faith in a quick improvement by adding Jeff Green, and the chemistry issues with losing Perk. Still, I can see Ainge's perspective a little more clearly now.

  • http://www.belfor.com/en/USA/Texas/Dallas.aspx Mold Removal Dallas

    Perkins is overrated. I think the Thunder lost more than what they gained with that trade.

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