Have we come to the point in which Kendrick Perkins finally stops being a staring center for the Oklahoma City Thunder? Steven Adams, entering his second season in the NBA, is threatening to take over the spot from the veteran big man, who is entering the final season on his contract.
Perkins hasn’t been getting praise or doing much on both ends of the floor anymore. His biggest plus? His familiarity with the system and the key figures on this team, and his diminishing ability to block the paint and make it hard for teams to stretch the Thunder’s defense. Offensively, he doesn’t exist, averaging just 3.4 points per game, falling to 19 minutes a night last season. Still, the Thunder looked better with him on the team, as he did miss 20 games.
There were suggestions to release him through the amnesty clause. He’ll be paid $9.6 million next season. With Adams playing just as well as Perkins, at least on offense, and with Hasheem Thabeet, Mitch McGary and Nick Collison ready to fill in one of the two big-man positions, maybe the Thunder could have saved some money and opened up some cap space (which wouldn’t have helped them much) by getting rid of Perkins.
Despite Adams improving (playing 14.8 minutes a night last season), Scott Brooks isn’t a very creative or innovative head coach. He doesn’t like taking risks, and fears breaking apart a lineup that’s been working very well over the last few years, even though the Thunder might be even better in a smaller lineup, as long as they find a solution to Reggie Jackson being a terrible defender or Kevin Durant being on and off when it comes to defense.
Perkins used to be one of the best defensive centers in the league, but over the last two or three years it’s more of a case that he meshes well with players than actually playing well. He often doesn’t even touch the ball for on consecutive possessions, and is no longer worth the kind of money he’s being paid. His next contract, despite still not having his 30th birthday, won’t be even remotely close to what he’s making now, even in a league that loves overpaying big men.
The Thunder know something has to change in order for them to get over the hump. They’ve been close over the last few years, using the Westbrook injury as an excuse to their failure in 2013. Last year? Ibaka missed the first two games of the conference finals but he did come back and the Thunder had the series tied at 2. They just didn’t finish, and it had nothing to do with injuries. They’re not good enough despite the Durant-Westbrook presence, and Brooks has got to shake things up in some way in order to make the final leap and win a championship. Maybe taking Perkins out of the picture will end up being that move.