While Perkins is far from perfect, the truth is there are few starting centers throughout the league better suited for the Thunder. Many are better. Few are better fits.
The all-so important financial aspect must be included in that reality.
Despite Perkins' shortcomings, he continues to be one of the most cost-efficient big men in the league. His $7.8 million salary this season ranks him 17th among all starting centers.
Of the 13 centers paid less than Perkins, six are still on their rookie scale contracts. The other seven are Marcin Gortat, Robin Lopez, Samuel Dalembert, Omer Asik, J.J. Hickson, Kosta Koufos and Brandan Wright. Of those seven, you could make a case for only Gortat and Asik as better fits for the Thunder.
A fit on the Thunder entails sacrificing scoring and low-post touches (albeit not one of Perk's strong suits), manning the paint and supplying valiant low-post defense, an ability to defend the pick-and-roll, setting solid screens to free up wing players for open shots and providing toughness and enforcement.
How many starting centers being paid less than Perkins can do all of those things? And keep in mind, Perkins is widely regarded as the best in the league at defending the post. Who among us thinks the Thunder advances past Denver and Memphis and the Lakers and San Antonio over the past two postseasons without Perkins?
Meanwhile, in the cases of Denver and Dallas, the Nuggets and Mavs have more expensive centers than Perkins coming off the bench in JaVale McGee ($10 million) and Chris Kaman ($8 million).
Perkins sits sandwiched between Gortat and Anderson Varejao on the list of starting centers by salary, a reasonable placing. Nearly everyone above Perkins is a $10 million a year player, something the Thunder can't currently afford.
It's just easy to lose sight of those facts when focusing so much on Perkins' rebounds.
“If you watch the game, and you know the game of basketball, you understand and you can see what's going on out there,” Perkins said. “I'm not the guy to be out there fighting guys for rebounds. Our starting five is a pretty good rebounding team … So I'm not really tripping on numbers. At the end of the day, I'm at the stage of my career where it's all about wins.”
On Sunday night, the number the Thunder cares most about ticked to 86. That's how many wins, regular season and postseason, the Thunder owns with Perk in the lineup over the past 1½ seasons.