2013-2014 Thunder player grades: Kendrick Perkins is still here

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Perkins was predictably bad, but there were a few things weren't so bad!

Full Name: Kendrick La'Dale Perkins

Nickname: Perk, Yung Hawg, Swamp Thang (I've never heard the last one before, but it's on his Basketball-Reference page and it's great, so that's my choice of the group)

Years in NBA: 2003-2014; 11 seasons

Contract Status:

  • Paid $8,727,437 in 2013-14
  • Due $9,404,342 in 2014-15
  • Contract expires in the 2015 offseason
  • Amnesty-eligible this offseason

Player History:

  • Drafted out of Clifton J. Ozen HS by the Memphis Grizzlies in 2003 with the 27th overall pick, traded on draft day to the Boston Celtics with Marcus Banks for Troy Bell and Dahntay Jones
  • Played seven and a half seasons (2003-2011) with the Celtics and averaged 6.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 22.3 minutes. Won a championship in the 2007-08 season, finished second in the NBA in field goal percentage in 2009-10.
  • Traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder on February 24, 2011 with Nate Robinson for Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic, cash and a 2012 first round pick (eventually the 22nd pick in the first round that was used to draft Fab Melo)
  • Signed a four-year extension on March 1st, 2011
  • In three and a half seasons with the Thunder, Perkins has averaged 4.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 0.9 rebounds in 24.0 minutes; has averaged 5.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 22.9 minutes for his 11-season career

Pre-season Expectations:

Here's the WTLC player preview on Perkins before the season from J.A. and myself. Both of us expected him to be a C, but a 39% majority of 38 voters picked him to be a D.

Expectations for Perk coming in were minimal. As in, nobody really expected him to be a plus and everybody was tired of him and his contract. There were a few appropriate niches that he occupied, like being a sturdy post defender and being big, but it wasn't of a whole lot of positive value. The main expectation was just that he would begin the season as a starter, mentor the rookie Steven Adams, and play about 20 minutes per game while hopefully not being too damaging in that capacity.

Regular Season Per Game Stats:

GP MIN FG% 3P% FT% OREB TREB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
62 19.5 .451 .000 .55.2 1.3 4.9 1.1 0.4 0.5 1.5 2.9 3.4

Regular Season Grade:

Grade_cminus_medium

Perkins made nearly $9 million this season. Sorry about that.

He was a solid rebounder and maybe even a good defender in certain situations, but suffered from having easily exploitable flaws on defense and being a total lost cause offensively.

Perkins still can't score, and for one reason or another, his field goal percentage on shots within three feet of the rim dropped from .580 last season to .488 this season. He did seem to find a bit of a comfort level in the three-to-ten feet range, with his percentage of shots coming from that area as well his field goal percentage on those shots both increasing significantly, and started used a standing floater often. It still really wasn't that pretty and he came out of the season with a .453 field goal percentage, disappointing for a center that attempts most of his shots from the paint.

By the way, Perk is still a living moving screen who can't really do moving things with the basketball. He and Reggie Jackson probably led the league in, "Oop,s I threw the ball too hard" turnovers.

Defense was where Perkins did his best work, and Synergy ranked him 42nd in the NBA based on points per possession allowed. Most impressively, he forced a field goal percentage of .412 on shots taken within five feet of him in the paint, roughly on par with Roy Hibbert. Admittedly, part of that was because he shared the paint with Serge Ibaka, but Perkins is a pretty tough guy who's going to bump everyone that ventures into the paint. That makes him a good post defender/help defender against little guy drives, even if he can't quite challenge shots above the rim (that's what Ibaka's for!).

I think the most pleasing part of his defense, however, was his isolation defense. He ranked second in PPP allowed on isolations according to Synergy, giving up 0.49 points per possession on 69 possessions. As slow as he is, he showed some Joakim Noah-ish moxie defending guys attacking face-up in the high post and even switching on to guards, and that effort bailed him out a surprising amount of times. Perk was handsy, gave his all to contest shots, and generally won out against little guy drives with his combination of effort and size despite losing in speed. Here he is defending and blocking a Stephen Curry layup, and yes, it's so glorious:

Isolation-switch-defense

With all that said, Perkins was still extremely easy to exploit on defense, and it was hard to call him a plus because of that. For all the effort he gives, he's too slow to help off of a jump-shooting big man and he had to sag in the pick-and-roll, often getting blown past by faster guards with a head of steam or otherwise ending up abused by the roll man. The ground-and-pound bigs like Zach Randolph that Perkins thrives against are far and few these days, and more and more bigs are capable of pulling their matchups to the perimeter as either talented pick-and-roll partners or deadeye spot-up shooters. Perk is too slow to win in most perimeter situations after a plain one-on-one.

In the end, we can only call what Perkins did on the defensive end as 'solid.' He actually does a handful of things well, but his exploitable flaws diminish his other defensive abilities. Combine that with distinctly average rebounding and a total lack of offensive production, and it was probably for the best that Perkins' minutes took a small dive this season as Steven Adams entered the fold. About everyone wanted to see Adams start, but Perkins was probably better for most of the season and he fouled less. Still, it's hard to call Perkins particularly helpful in the end, especially if we factor in the price-for-production here.

Post Season Grade:

Grade_bminus_medium

Perkins really got the benefit of the matchups here. He was outstanding versus Zach Randolph in the first round, shutting him down in the low post and baiting him to take challenged fadeaway jumpers from midrange. Of course, as I said earlier, Randolph is the rare big that can be completely checked by Perkins.

In the second round against the Los Angeles Clippers, Perk had occasional opportunities against Blake Griffin and generally did well in those situations. Much like Z-Bo, Griffin couldn't back down Perk in the post and was relegated to operating in the midrange, a win for the Thunder overall. It was a little different against DeAndre Jordan, who picked up a handful of alley-oop looks off this Clippers set and generally being impossible for Perkins to keep up with. Still, a good-looking round for the most part here.

Then, the Thunder met the San Antonio Spurs. Perkins generally wasn't too bad when he was left on Tiago Splitter, but this was the series that his shortcomings were finally exploited. The Spurs could engineer opportunities to take him out of the paint and attack him on the move in pick-and-rolls, and eventually discovered Boris Diaw which led to a bit more of Perkins on the bench and a lot of abuse when he wasn't.

But, Perkins doesn't usually get the chance to be genuinely helpful for as many games as he was in these playoffs, so here's to the rare good moment for him. Even Perkins smiles sometimes.

Most Memorable Game/Moment:

You mean apart from "Y'all don't hit perk up I see"-gate? Fiiine.

I'll say it was specifically the first round series against the Memphis Grizzlies where Perkins completely won the matchup against Zach Randolph. It's rare to say Perkins definitively wins many matchups against anyone, so holding Z-Bo to .404 from the field in the first round was huge for his résumé. For context, Randolph shot .464 in the regular season. Things were much different for him in the playoffs.

Perkins actually won this matchup pretty clearly in the regular season too. The key to his defense against Randolph was that Perk was the rare guy Randolph couldn't back down or muscle past, and after that, Randolph is a bit too eager to shoot a fadeaway jumper that isn't even particularly efficient. And again, Perkins isn't bad at all when it comes to contesting shots.

Defense-vs-zach-randolph

The Grizzlies run so much of their offense through Randolph post-ups, and with that eliminated as an effective option, they had to start digging for weird small-ball lineups. You never see small-ball lineups from the Grizzlies. Still, with Randolph completely checked, they had to go to four- and a few times even a five-guard lineup. And that's with primary backup point guard Nick Calathes suspended for the playoffs. Perkins was a genuine series changer against the Grizzlies.

Lastly, Perk did something against Memphis that you will likely never see again: a buzzer beating shot to send a playoff game into OT:


Future Expectations:

I'll bet people want Perkins amnestied, but when asked about the topic, GM Sam Presti said, "It's not something that's been considered to this point."

Amnestying Perkins doesn't actually create space under the cap that the Thunder could use with the Mid-Level Exception, and the luxury tax isn't likely to be a concern this year as the threshold jumps up to $77.0 million, so there's not really any reason to amnesty Perkins. The team wouldn't have to pay him $9.4 million next year, sure, but then they'd have to go find someone else to pay as one of their centers, and that'd be with cap flexibility that the team would prefer to spend on upgrades elsewhere.

As an expiring contract, Perkins does have some value. But at the same time, expiring contracts aren't worth nearly as much as they used to and the Thunder aren't exactly in a position to be taking on somebody else's contract to go against the cap. Maybe near the trade deadline, something good could come up, but I wouldn't really count on it. So, until then, the Thunder are stuck with Perkins.

And that's probably not too bad. Adams could earn the starting job as soon as training camp if he returns playing the same way he did in the playoffs, and he'll probably have the job by season's end one way or another. Perk isn't damaging in a 15-20 minute role, even if that means most of $9.4 million wastes away. We'll see if anything happens in the offseason, but the center platoon of Adams and Swamp Thang will probably return for one more season.

***

Player Grade Explanation:
A: Far exceeded expectations
B: Exceeded expectations
C: Met expectations
D: Did not meet expectations
F: Fell far short of expectations

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