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Kendrick Perkins' rebounding resurrection: is Perk better than ever or just better utilized?

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Kendrick Perkins has experienced a renaissance this season. What is the reason why?

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

For the last 3 1/2 seasons, Kendrick Perkins and his ridiculous contract have received much ridicule from NBA fans everywhere. He has been the subject of trade rumors along with calls for use of the amnesty clause. This season has been somewhat of a renaissance by Perk. While he boasts such highlights as an early season 17 point explosion against the Nuggets, his real resurgence hasn't been about the point production, it's about the rebounding numbers. In his first full year in OKC, Perkins averaged 8.8 rebounds per 36 minutes. Last year he averaged 9.1 rebounds per 36 minutes. This year? He's averaging 10.8 rebounds per 36 minutes. What has caused this sudden resurgence? Let's look at some factors.

Injuries

Every summer he's been in Oklahoma City, Kendrick Perkins has had some kind of surgery or rehab. When he was traded to the team from the Celtics on February 25, 2011 for Jeff Green, he had a sprained MCL and couldn't play for the first week he was here. Even then, he was still hobbled by a torn ACL, MCL, and PCL that he suffered in the playoffs the year before in the Finals against the Lakers. The summer of 2011 was spent rehabbing those two injuries fully.

In 2012, after a playoff run to the Finals that ended in a 4-1 loss to the Miami Heat, Perk had offseason surgery on his groin, shortly after being eliminated from Olympic competition (He was a member of the 37 finalists for a spot on the team.) Later that summer, Perkins went under the knife again, this time to repair a torn ligament in his wrist. If you're keeping score at home, that's three injuries in a year and a half.

In 2013, Perkins underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. Though this was a somewhat minor operation, only keeping him out two weeks, it was the same knee that he tore his ACL, MCL, and PCL in 2010. That's four injuries in the two and a half years he's been with OKC.

Three surgeries in two years certainly did not do Perk or his athleticism any favors. This summer he had no surgery or rehab of any kind, though he did have surgery in February of last season. Him not having surgery gave him a whole offseason to work on his game and his athleticism, and he took advantage of it, losing 22 pounds. At this point in his career, he's not going to become a 10 ppg scorer, but what that returned athleticism did was help his rebounding. He's able to jump higher and put himself in better position for boards.

Effort

Since Perkins isn't a starter this year, his minutes aren't, or at least shouldn't be, guaranteed. Perk knows this, and because of that, puts all of his effort into creating extra opportunities on the offensive glass. Of those 10.8 rebounds per 36 minutes, 3.5 are coming on the offensive end. That's more than an entire rebound improvement over last year, even though he's playing the same amount of minutes. Maybe he's just trying a little harder.

Competition

The majority of Perkins' minutes are coming against the backup power forwards and centers of the league. I want to bring attention to two particular games.

The first is December 9th against Milwaukee. In this matchup, the starting front line for the Bucks was Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, and Larry Sanders; all capable rebounders. The backup power forward and center that night was Zaza Pachulia and Khris Middleton, who accumulated 7 rebounds total. Perk in this game had 9 rebounds, with 7 coming on the offensive glass. Perk really hit the boards hard this game and the Bucks backups had no match for him.

The second game I want to bring attention to was December 16th against Sacramento. In this game, if you remember, Demarcus Cousins didn't play, so Reggie Evans, Jason Thompson, and Rudy "Virus" Gay started in the frontcourt. The backups that had to contain Perk were Ryan Hollins and Carl Landry. Though, Perk only had 4 rebounds in this game, 3 were on the offensive end, and he had 2 assists on kickouts after the board. Kendrick Perkins had as many assists as Kevin Durant in this game.

So as you can see, playing against the Khris Middleton's and Alex Len's on the world really can help your rebounding numbers compared to playing against DeAndre Jordan and Anthony Davis.

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My name is Joey Conger and I am a new contributor to SB Nation and WTLC. I'll be putting out a couple articles per week from news reaction to opinion pieces to analysis to game coverage, so I'll be writing on pretty much everything Thunder-related. I'm looking forward to getting my opinions out there to help further encourage great Thunder discussion.