The Oklahoman’s staff writers discuss three topics surrounding Kendrick Perkins.
Who should be the starting center next season, Kendrick Perkins or Steven Adams?
Darnell Mayberry, Thunder beat writer: Adams. He’s got too many natural gifts to keep bottled on the bench. He averaged a shade less than 15 minutes in the regular season, and by the year’s end he clearly was deserving of at least 10 more per night. Not only that, but Adams could bring even more balance to the starting five with his athleticism and finishing ability. Of course, he’ll have his share of hurdles. But I have no doubt that the Thunder would be better off come playoff time if they ride with Adams in the first string from the start.
Anthony Slater, Thunder beat writer: Steven Adams. But that’s not as much an indictment on Perk as a clear realization that Adams, at 20, is emerging as one of the league’s best young centers and a building block for OKC. Time to get him into a starting lineup in which he will almost assuredly be a fixture over the next decade.
Berry Tramel, Columnist: Steven Adams, provided he makes the requisite defensive improvement. Adams really came into his own in the postseason. If he continues that kind of progression, he is an effective starting NBA center. But he’s got to play the consistent defense that Kendrick Perkins provides, if he wants to take minutes away from Perk.
How should Scott Brooks handle Perkins’ minutes next season?
Mayberry: Judicially. The Thunder should be past the point of playing Perk just to play him. That means any game that Perkins can ignore his man and pick up point guards the length of the floor is a game that Perkins doesn’t need to play. But when Dwight Howard or Al Jefferson or Tim Duncan or Zach Randolph comes to town, throw Perkins out there and let him do what he does best. Short of that, it’s time to shorten the leash, which Brooks has wisely done with Perk’s minutes in each subsequent season over the past three.
Slater: It’s match and foul dependent. At this point of his career, Perk is basically a specialist. Russell Westbrook calls him the league’s best post defender. So use him exclusively against teams (like the Rockets and Grizzlies) who feature low post scorers. Other than that, keep him planted on the bench, unless Adams gets in early foul trouble, which is bound to happen on more than a few occasions.
Tramel: I’d say Adams and Perkins could play 20/20. Each 20 minutes, with eight minutes in a smaller lineup. It all depends on the opponent. Even if Adams progresses, Perk’s defense is valuable. We saw that in the postseason, when his defense against the likes of Zach Randolph/Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan and Tim Duncan was very good, except for a couple of games.
What can Perkins do, if anything, next year to quiet some of his critics?
Mayberry: Aside from averaging a double-double, leading the league in blocked shots, making the All-Star team and winning Defensive Player of the Year? Perk can start by limiting his mistakes. As much as anything else, it’s the unforced errors and mental mistakes that really hurt Perkins’ rep. Those obvious blunders that stand out to even the most casual fans provided even more reasons to be critical when the box scores already make Perkins’ playing time look pointless. But clean up the mistakes and Perk can reduce at least some of the vitriol coming from those who don’t study or don’t care for the small things that he brings.
Slater: Oh, nothing really. At this point, Perk is what he is. He’s not going to stretch out his shooting range or regain some of the athleticism from his Boston days. He’s going to play solid post defense and provide a strong, needed locker room presence. Some of his best basketball since joining OKC came in the first two rounds. But criticism remained because, even when Perk’s effective, it ain’t pretty.
Tramel: Cure cancer, balance the federal budget and broker an Israeli/Arab peace accord. Do all that, then sink the winning basket in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, and some fans would come around.