Oklahoma City Gives: Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic
Boston Gives: Kendrick Perkins, Nate Robinson
January 28th, 2009. That's the last time the Thunder had a different starting lineup, not including injuries. On that date in a game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Desmond Mason suffered a season-ending knee injury, and Thabo Sefolosha took his place in the rotation, setting in stone a lineup that would survive for 756 days, or over two years. But today, things have finally changed.
We have traded away Jeff Green. We acquired Jeff Green back in the Supersonics days in a trade involving Ray Allen. Green has been a fixture in our rotation, and he had moments where one would think he had the same scoring ability as Kevin Durant. But, as the years went by, the gap between Jeff Green and Kevin Durant widened. Green's games became more and more statistically inefficient, and it was painfully obvious he couldn't guard most NBA power forwards. He couldn't be put on the bench, as there are few minutes to be had behind Durant, and he's too big to be a shooting guard. Thus, Green was always in a state of flux. Thunder fans appreciated him, but always wanted someone else at PF, and he was always mentioned in deals for other big men. His fate was sealed when the Thunder were unable to sign him to an extension, meaning the Thunder would likely lose him in Free Agency if they weren't willing to pony up the cash. Thus, he was traded for someone more suitable in the paint.
Nenad Krstic is also a goner. He was a no risk, high reward signing out of the Russian Superleague two years ago, and he proved to be a very serviceable center. But, to be honest, he was everyone's favourite player to hate. He wasn't a very physical center, and he didn't defend well. He scored very efficiently in bursts, but whenever he missed a couple of jumpers or got dunked on, everyone was quick to point the finger at him. Alas, for that is the nature of basketball. But in all honesty, there's a reason he started at center over Ibaka. He was always available as an offensive option when Durant and Westbrook got tied up, and the plays that were drawn for him worked remarkably well. He didn't commit stupid mistakes, and always knew where to be on the floor. His mid-range jumper was like butter, and he could always overpower those who were smaller than him. Yes, he was a below average defender, and yes, he would never go in the paint and score. But he was what he was, and he helped us to Oklahoma City's first playoff run. And that fact cannot be forgotten.
Who are we getting in return?
Kendrick Perkins, #43, Boston Celtics
2009-10: 10.1 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.0 AST, 1.7 BPG
2010-11: 7.3 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 0.8 AST, 0.8 BPG
The big name in this deal is Kendrick Perkins. When I first heard of this man, I knew him as the joke of a player who would start with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen. I never thought he would catch on, and I thought the center position would always be filled by some random big man who could defend, rebound, and get garbage points, much like the Bulls teams of the 90s. I was wrong about Perkins though. He proved to be a solid starter for the Celtics, becoming a double-double machine, and even having good scoring nights. He's definitely a post player in principle, which is a type of player the Thunder haven't seen since Etan Thomas. He won't do any pick and pop plays like Krstic or Ibaka, and he doesn't score beyond the post. But, that's exactly what the Thunder were looking for, so I can't complain.
Nate Robinson, #4, Boston Celtics
2009-10 (NYK): 13.2 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 3.7 APG, 0.9 SPG
2009-10 (BOS): 6.5 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, 0.9 SPG
2010-11: 7.1 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 1.9 APG, 0.5 SPG
Nate Robinson is probably better known for his dunk contest exploits than anything else. But, he's a solid player as well. He used to be the star of a mediocre Knicks team, and then accepted a bench role on a championship-caliber Celtics team last year. Don't let his stats fool you, because Nate Robinson is still capable of scoring 15-20 points on a good night. He always had to battle Rondo and Allen for minutes on the Celtics though, which hampered his stats a bit. He's excellent in beating teams in transition, he can score the three ball extremely well, and he is just as good at attacking the basket as Westbrook is. He's not the greatest Point Guard in the world, but he does the job adeptly, and his jump usually helps him in not getting taken advantage of by taller defenders. But all in all, he's a scorer, and will probably be used as such.
Below: How they'll slot into the rotation, Where This Trade Puts Us and Them Moving Forward!
Okay, so how are these guys going to slot into the rotation?
Well, Kendrick Perkins is obviously going to be our starting center. There's a small possibility that Brooks will want to keep it small and put Ibaka at center, but considering what we traded for Perkins, he's definitely in our plans for now. Perkins got injured two days ago, and will likely be out another 5 days (which means missing the Lakers on Sunday), but it's not a huge deal. In the meantime, we can expect a lineup with Ibaka at Center and Collison or Durant at PF.
Nate Robinson is more of an enigma. He's a great scorer, but can we give him time over James Harden? Do we even want to give him time over the emerging Daequan Cook? Do we gamble and throw him in at backup PG over Maynor? Heck, do we go small and give Harden/Cook a more SF type of role? Or do we even buy out his contract? It's hard seeing where he slots in. The most likely scenario is more time split at the guard spots, and the Thunder getting a bit smaller at SF when Durant isn't there. Time will be earned based on merit during the game, much as it is on other good franchises.
Where does this put us moving forward?
To be honest, I don't see a huge change in wins. It gives us a nice factor when dealing with teams like the Magic and the Lakers, but the main cogs of the Thunder strategy will stay the same. Instead of pick n' pops to Krstic, it's post moves for Perkins. Instead of mid-range shots for Green, it's mid-range shots for Ibaka and Harden.
In the playoffs, it makes a huge difference. Having a stopper on your team against teams with excellent bigs like the Lakers, Mavericks, and Spurs is a miracle. It gives us much more of a shot to beat them, especially when it comes down to the last few crucial possession and rebounding and defense count.
Beyond this season, it's a mystery as to whether we'll be able to sign Perkins. He's on an expiring contract, and he just came from a Championship team onto a not-so championship team. If we play successfully, he may resign, but he's probably got a different definition of success. One things for sure, though: He's more likely to resign than Jeff Green was, and probably as more reasonable of a price.
Nate Robinson probably won't stay beyond the two years left on his deal, if that. The Thunder already are loaded with young talent at his natural positions, and signs aren't pointing to any of that talent busting out. He'll be a valuable asset this year, especially when it comes to crunch-time, but he may be gone in a flash.
What do you think about the trade? Vote in the poll, post a comment!