The Oklahoma City Thunder and Kendrick Perkins have a mutual understanding.
Perkins understands his role. He understands that his stat sheet won’t always look like it did Friday against the Utah Jazz. More than likely, Perkins won’t have another 12-6-4 game for the rest of his career, much less the rest of the season.
However, Perkins’ output can’t be measured by the box score alone. He produces in ways the rest of the team can’t and most of the time the plays he makes benefit those around him more than himself.
However, there are still those who question Scott Brooks for starting Perkins. There are those who don’t see the silver lining in his game and can’t understand that the little things he gets done, on a nightly basis, help produce the gaudy stats Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and company put up.
Little things like defending the paint, setting screens, clogging lanes, defending the pick-and-roll and blocking out. Teams need guys like Perkins performing all of the unrecognized duties in order to win championships. Teams need guys to do the dirty work.
Since arriving in Oklahoma City, Perkins has helped turn the Thunder into a championship contender. Pre-Perkins, the Thunder tried to get by with Nenad Krstic as their starting center. Krstic was deadly from the top of the key, but defensively, calling him a liability might’ve given him too much credit. Oklahoma City had nobody to defend the block before Perkins, nobody to get physical with other teams’ bigs and nobody with a mean streak long enough to intimidate other players. Now they have an intimidation factor, and it has helped them win games.
There are statistics to back Perkins’ play as well.
His defense this season has been impressive considering the numbers. According to Basketball-Reference.com, he has a better defensive rating than last year’s Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler. Perkins is giving up an estimated 103 points per 100 possessions compared to Chandler’s 104.
Perkins also leads Chandler in defensive win shares, a statistic used to measure how many wins a player contributed due to his defense. Perkins is at .5 and Chandler is at .4.
The Thunder is 115-50 since inserting Perkins into the starting lineup for the first time on Mar. 14, 2011 and they’ve been to two straight Western Conference Finals as well. This coming after Perkins won a championship with the Boston Celtics in 2008.
Perkins has a quality most players in the league don’t have. He cares more about the team than himself. His inability to score and make plays offensively doesn’t hold him back on the defensive end. He plays with intensity every possession and gets nothing but a pat on the back afterwards. It’s hard to really measure what he brings to the team, but it’s not hard to see that it produces success.
Oklahoma City fans may not realize it, but the Thunder is better with Perkins. He may not fill the box score like some centers in the league, but he brings toughness and he does the little things.
Sometimes the little things can add up to something more important than a box score: winning.