It might be easy to forget how Perkins greatly improved the Thunder's defense from the moment the team acquired him from Boston midway through the 2010-11 season. But the Thunder hasn't forgotten how Perkins helped the team get past Denver and Memphis in the 2011 playoffs with his defense on Nene and Gasol, or how he pestered Dirk Nowitzki, Andrew Bynum and Tim Duncan in the 2012 playoffs.
“He's a part of the group that's had success, and we value that,” Presti said. “We don't split that up and weigh it based on eight games or things of that nature. We look at it a little more wholistically and collectively.”
Beyond that, booting Perkins via the amnesty clause serves little to no purpose for the Thunder.
Oklahoma City still would have to pay Perkins his full salary. The team would be relieved of only a partial amount if another team that is under the salary cap bids on Perkins and brings him in. For instance, if Toronto made a $2 million bid for Perkins in the amnesty process, the Thunder would be on the hook for the remaining $16 million and change.
Still, the Thunder would be left with a gaping hole in the middle. Some have floated the idea of playing smaller by moving Serge Ibaka to center, or starting Nick Collison. But both proposals have their respective problems and above all would represent a radical transformation in the Thunder's philosophy.
Because of constraints in the CBA, adding a replacement isn't nearly as easy as it sounds. If the Thunder amnestied Perkins, the team's payroll still would be around $58 million, which is where the league's soft salary cap was set for the past two seasons. That means the Thunder wouldn't have any room under the cap to sign a free agent. All the team would have available would be a few exceptions, most notably the midlevel exception (roughly $5 million) that would allow it to exceed the soft cap.
The next challenge would be locating a player as good as or better than Perkins willing to play for midlevel money. Keep in mind big men historically command more coin. If that player is out there somewhere, the Thunder would have to be willing to pay Perkins his money, as well as the replacement. The center position suddenly would cost the Thunder $14 million next season instead of $9 million.
“When you're under the cap,” Presti said, “by connotation it also means that your payroll and cash payment is at a different level, so therefore you'd be able to absorb a full salary of a player and it might be more beneficial because you'd be able to exceed that player's salary based on the salary cap space that you're using. So generally, teams are using those provisions as under-the-cap teams.”
Meanwhile, the man who has stumbled into all this scrutiny is simply taking it in stride. Perkins was neither agitated nor angered by the topic Thursday. His beads of sweat, he said, must have stemmed from the stage lights that illuminated his face for television purposes.
“Well, Mark Cuban said (the Lakers) could have amnestied Kobe Bryant,” Perkins joked. “So I mean anybody capable of getting amnestied. But at the end of the day, no, I don't feel that way. It's easy to point the finger at somebody, or if something don't go right it's easy to say ‘Oh, let's just make a change.' And then you make a change and what if the change don't work? And then you need to make another change.
“At the end of the day, you don't see San Antonio just sitting up here making changes all of a sudden. They stick with what they believe in. At the end of the day, I'm pretty comfortable and I'm pretty sure that I'll be back here next year. So I'm not worried about that.”