Kendrick Perkins was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder on February 24, 2011, along with Nate Robinson. Perkins was recovering for knee surgery after he tore the medial collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments in his right knee during game six of the 2010 NBA finals. The Thunder traded away Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic, cash and a 2012 1st round draft pick that would later turn into Fab Melo.
This was how we acquired Mr. Perkins; the question that’s on many people minds currently is what to do with him now? When the Thunder traded for Mr. Perkins they were coming off an early departure from the 2010 NBA playoffs at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round. Mr. Perkins was picked up mid-season for one reason and one reason only… to stop the Laker’s big men (at the time Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum). One could make an argument that he was acquired to stop Tim Duncan from the Spurs and Marc Gasol form the Grizzlies as well.
Perkins has many strengths as a player, only one or two of which are on the offensive side of the ball. He sets bone jarring screens, makes good if not risky interior passes, communicates on defense (which is more important than some would think), delivers above average post defense and provides the team with something that will never show up in any box score, an edge. With that said he has many shortcomings as well. He’s not very athletic, is a poor shooter, fouls often, is a below average rebounder, is susceptible to technical fouls, has trouble defending on the perimeter and is very turnover prone (I’ve heard more than once from multiple people that he has frying pans for hands). You couple that with his poor play for the later part of the regular season, his dismal play during the playoffs and the simple fact that there aren’t very many teams where his particular skill sets come in handy and you start to understand why many fans are calling for his job.
With all that said, Perkins has done exactly what we have asked him to do. The Thunder knew he would never score a bunch of points or average double digit rebounds for that matter. Going into this we knew that he was for all accounts a "one-dimensional" player coming knee surgery. What the fans should be mad about is why where paying him the kind of money we currently are. We as Thunder fans just want more. That is within our right as fans. Our Thunder are so close to greatness most of us can smell it (myself included). Most feel were one skilled big man away from total dominance (which we could get in this year’s draft). So, what do we do with Mr. Perkins.
These are the facts; Perkins is under contract until the end of the 2014-2015 season. He is currently on the Thunder’s books for about 8.3 million dollars. He’s due 8.9 million next year and a whopping 9.6 the final year of his contract. Each year has roughly 500,000 dollars’ worth of incentives that don’t count towards the salary cap.
Could we trade him? His trade value is nowhere near what it was when we traded for him. The Thunder are stuck in a bit of a "buy high, sell low" situation. You add that with the current state of the NBA and the trade market for Mr. Perkins does not look good. In fact the only team I can think of that would entertain the idea is his old team the Boston Celtics.
Could we amnesty him? Yes we could but will we? If we do he would enter into a "wavier" kind of situation with the worst teams in the league getting first shot at him. After that the he would go through a "secondary waiver" process where teams under the cap can submit a bid. The highest bidder would get Mr. Perkins. Only players who clear both the regular waiver process and the secondary waivers will actually become free agents. If he is picked up in either of these wavier systems that team would pay his contract as is.
Can we keep him and just let him come off the bench? We could but do we want to? Do you really want to pay a role player of Mr. Perkins caliber around 9 million dollars a year for the next three years. Do you think he would have a problem with some lottery pick (like Cody Zeller or Alex Len) taking his starting spot and moving quietly to the bench and playing maybe 8-10 minutes a game?
In a perfect world we could restructure his contact to make it a little more passable. Draft an offensive minded big man that can learn some of the nuances of defense form Mr. Perkins while he slowly works his way into the starting lineup.
Perkins by all accounts is a good man and despite the hard/mean exterior he wears while on the court he is warm hearted person who is very active in the community. We as an NBA city are lucky to have him but I can’t shake the feeling that we could do better. With all this talk about being a small market team and the need to save money and plan for the future, I just don’t see how Mr. Perkins fits into all that.