The Kendrick Perkins Conundrum

Mike Ehrmann

In a short period of time, Kendrick Perkins became a physical force and leader for the Oklahoma City Thunder. But, how does Perkins fit within the team moving forward?

Back in February of 2011, the trade that transpired between the Boston Celtics and the Oklahoma City Thunder was one that was initially received with cringes, but as time passed we saw the vision that general manager Sam Presti had for his young squad.

Kendrick Perkins was going to provide the leadership, the muscle and the wherewithal to a team that had a surplus of talent but just needed some direction. Yes, we'd always have a soft spot in our heart for (Uncle) Jeff Green, but in the two years that followed (Western Conference Finals and NBA Finals appearances) what Perk brought to the table was immeasurable.

So why does it feel like, almost two years later, that what Perk brings to the table is still immeasurable?

Once Perkins was traded to Oklahoma City, the Thunder brass immediately gave Perk a new contract. Now in the 2012-13 season, with $25 million remaning and three years left on his deal, its not easy to look at his stat line and be upset with per game averages of 4.8 points and 4.8 rebounds. But, he brings more to the table that just points and rebounds, right? As ESPN's Royce Young reminds us , we might not have made the finals last year if Perkins doesn't come through in the clutch:

One issue is, if you don't start Perk, what do you do with him? Other than using him as a specialist in specific matchups, what spot would it make sense to bring him off the bench? The answer there is pretty much no spot. Brooks loves consistency and stability and he loves the toughness and presence Perk brings. But instead of stubbornly rolling out that starting five regardless of everything, flexing a little makes sense. The whole point is to win games. Not to make players happy or not hurt feelings.

Some people look at Perk and wonder why he ever plays. He has a very distinct value and ignoring that based on the box score is dumb. There are a lot of instances where he holds the Thunder back, but clearly this Thunder team is very good and that's more because of Perk and less in spite of him. It's easy to forget what a role he played in the four wins against the Spurs or how well he defended Andrew Bynum or how well he likely will defend Dwight Howard.

Royce makes a valuable point, we don't make it through to the 2012 NBA Finals without the contributions of Perkins and its easy to forget after the fact. Yet and still, watching Perkins on the floor can be borderline painful at times. His inability to finish at the rim, his lack of mobility, his inability to stay out of foul trouble are just a few things that irks me about Perk. I don't even mind the scowls, the arguing, the hissy-fits because the man gives great interviews post-game and everyone in the locker room genuinely looks up to him.

Its everything you could ask for from a leader, except with minimal production.

Is Perkins replaceable? I have no idea. There are players that could be out there for the Thunder, but will they be available for this season? Probably not.

Is Perkins worth it? I can remember on ESPN how they discussed how big men in their prime can earn about million dollars for every rebound that they average per game. Perkins makes 9 million, so I'd say he's doubling up on his money from a rebounds perspective.

Some believe Perkins should be amnestied, and that with the free cap room the Thunder could acquire what pieces they'd rather have. If you couple in Kevin Martin's $13.2 million that he's owed in the final year of his deal, that's $20+ million that could be freed up on the Thunder's cap.

Unfortunately, I don't see that happening either. At least, right in the short term. For now, we'll have to treat Perkins like fine China. Yes, the elegant dishware is known to be expensive, but its also only brought out when essentially needed. You don't bring out Perkins when your Aunt from Phoenix comes over, but when your mother-in-law from Los Angeles, San Antonio or Memphis come through, you bring out the China and leave them impressed.

Hopefully, Perkins doesn't break our hearts in the process.

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