Guess what? The NBA is in the midst of a league-crippling lockout. Oh, you’ve heard? Well, that means that while we jump on every little insignificant bit of news coming out of Celtics’ camp, will also be revisiting some parts of last season that deserve more analysis/snark/discussion.
This feature will be aptly titled “Revisits” and the execution will take many forms. Today Hayes, Ryan, and I will be talking about the Perkins Trade (also covered by old friend Zach Lowe at SI). In our first installment, here’s Hayes with a viewpoint I am sure many will agree with. Be sure to check out CelticsHub.com later today for other takes.
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I think the Kendrick Perkins trade was a huge mistake with major and immediate negative effects.
I’ll choose to ignore the whole chemistry argument: while trading a core player probably didn’t improve the team’s chemistry, I have no evidence to back that up, so I forbid it from entering this discussion even though it supports my point. I think the case against the Perk trade can be made with numbers alone.
I’ll also concede that the Celtics’ defensive efficiency barely dipped after Perk was shipped out. This kind of makes sense because the defense is a system of moving parts and any single part, except Kevin Garnett, is pretty much replaceable. The D abides.
But Perkins could have really helped against the Heat. And he absolutely would have helped a lot more than Jeff Green did.
Here’s the strongest evidence, in my view, that Perkins could have contributed against Miami: In their four losses, the Celtics outscored the Heat by 4 points when Jermaine O’Neal was on the floor.
Outscored. In four games which the Celtics lost by a total of 38 points, they outscored the Heat by 4 (four) when their lone living center was in the game. Game by game, his plus minus was 2, 0, -2, and 4, in that order. That means the Heat scored 42 more points than the Celtics when Jermaine was on the bench. I triple-checked that math and I’m almost sure it’s correct.
Jermaine started every game and was usually the first guy off the floor, so please don’t suggest that it was because he played against the Heat bench. And it certainly had nothing to do with his scoring: he ended up with an average of 7 points in those four games.
No, Jermaine earned the Celtics’ lone positive plus/minus mark because he offered a second rebounder to Kevin Garnett and could serviceably defend the rim. That’s it. That’s all the Celtics needed out of their center. But because Jermaine O’Neal was playing hurt and Shaq wasn’t playing at all (a scenario entertained by literally everyone at the beginning of the season), we only got an average of about twenty minutes of true center play per game.
I wrote about the center position and rebounding concerns a whole bunch after the trade. Ultimately, the Celtics tied the Heat once on the boards and were outrebounded three times in their losses, including by seven-effing-teen in Game 4, a game that went to overtime. Here’s what some people said after that game: “Even if the Celtics had Perkins, they wouldn’t have won that game in overtime.” Cool observation! But do you think there’s a chance that they might have avoided overtime if they hadn’t been outrebounded by double digits because they traded their starting center away for nothing?
Even on a bum knee, it seems reasonable to expect that Perkins could have matched or exceeded Jermaine’s play while adding at least ten more minutes of floor time. He had an almost identical Defensive Rebound Rating to Jermaine’s in the playoffs with Oklahoma City (against better-rebounding centers), and his shooting percentage was almost ten points higher. Don’t forget that, if Perkins had stayed, Jermaine could have made his contributions OFF THE BENCH, meaning that the Celtics would not have been forced to go one hot second without a true center on the floor. Given how Jermaine performed on his own, I have a hard time believing that more than doubling his minutes with no cost to his output wouldn’t have made a difference.
I’m out of room, so I can’t get into how mediocre a basketball player Jeff Green is, or my elaborate plan to kill myself if the Celtics re-sign him to even a medium-sized contract. Suffice it to say that Danny Ainge shouldn’t have traded Kendrick Perkins at all, but if he had to, he should have gotten a LOT more in return.