When Danny Ainge dealt Kendrick Perkins to the Oklahoma City Thunder the basketball world felt pure shock. As a fan of the Boston Celtics, I felt pure rage. Even Lakers fans were left in disbelief over what had transpired at the trade deadline. Why would Danny pull off a last second deal that may disturb the balance of the universe and cause the New England commonwealth to cave in upon itself? I decided to give it a few games as see what other moves Danny had planned before I crowned him the new Joe Dumars of the NBA.
A week has passed and the dust has settled. A few games and the new-look Boston Celtics look good. In fact, they look better. We shouldn’t just forgive Danny Ainge for moving Perkins, we should thank him.
Part of the reason Perkins was moved was because he had turned down a 4-year, $22-million offer from the Celtics. Perkins believed his value to be $10-million per year and the Celtics front office disagreed. The other key in the trade was Marquis Daniels going down with a neck injury. This left Boston with no backup small forward to help relieve Paul Pierce of his duties. Afraid that Boston and Pierce would burn out before the Finals and Perkins would leave shortly thereafter as a free agent, Ainge pulled the trigger. The move had two purposes: Try and salvage as much of this season as possible as well as help cushion the teams decline in the post-Big 3 era.
As Doc Rivers said, losing Perkins is like losing a member of the Celtics family. The loss might scar some Celtics fans for the considerable future but the deal did help relieve Boston of their love/hate relationship with Nate Robinson. Nate had not been particularly good this season, averaging just 7.1 points per game on 40.4% shooting. The rest of his stats aren’t worth mentioning, just know that Nate found himself in Doc’s doghouse more than he did headlining the sports section in Boston.
Perkins wasn’t exactly a beast this season, either.
Missing the majority of the season, he returned to Boston to play in 12 games before getting injured again, this time it was a strained MCL. Without him, the Celtics managed to win 35 of 46 games (76%). With Perk in the lineup Boston won 8 of 12 games (66%). Some of that has to be attributed to who Boston played once Perkins returned — Heat, Lakers, Blazers, Mavs and Magic — but Perkins was not playing up to par, either.
We only have a limited sample size for the season and Kendrick has yet to play in a game for the Thunder but from what we did see from Perkins, he wasn’t that good this season.
The advanced stats paint an even uglier picture. His rebounding percentages have dropped across the board (18.8% to 15.3%) as have his block% (6.0% to 4.9%). Perkins was also turning the ball over more; a painful 26.3% despite playing less minutes and getting less touches. His PER had plummeted to just 10.2 from 15.0 the year before — the league average is around 15.0 — and his Adjusted +/- was just +0.29. That means that Perkins was only making a difference of 0.29 points per 100 possessions. In fact, only one of the Celtics top ten units features Perkins in the line up. In contrast, a lineup of Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Garnett and Krstic has already faired better than any combination Perkins was involved in.
The one match-up most worry about is the potential playoff series with the Orlando Magic and how Boston will handle Dwight Howard. It’s a common notion in the NBA that Kendrick Perkins is the kryptonite to Dwight’s Superman stat lines. While Kendrick does keep Dwight below his season averages, Dwight still manages to put up great numbers. Since the start of the Big-3 Era in Boston (2007-08 season), Kendrick and Dwight have matched up 12 times. In those games, games, Dwight has managed to put up 17.4 points, 14.1 rebounds, 3.25 blocks on 51% shooting with 11 double-doubles and three 20/10 games. So, let’s be clear here, Perkins was absolutely the best at slowing down Howard but he was no where near stopping him. In their one and only match-up this season, Dwight scored 28 points on 50% shooting, grabbed 13 rebounds to go with 2 assists and 3 blocks. Boston got the W and that’s all that mattered to them. The Celtics aren’t worried about Dwight, they focus in on stopping the rest of the Magic and turning them into a one dimensional team. They employed this strategy in the Eastern Conference Finals last season when they faced off with the Magic and it worked. The Celtics won the series in six games despite the fact that Dwight averaged 22 and 11 on 53% shooting. Loosely translated, Kendrick Perkins was a non-factor for the 2010-11 Celtics.
What Boston got in return for Kendrick is going to payoff come playoff time. Nenad Krstic has had a decent NBA career. His familiarity with his former coach, Celtics assistant Lawrence Frank, should ease his transition into the regular rotation. Nenad can play defense but his specialty is on the offensive end — something Perkins never excelled at. Boston also acquired some youth in Jeff Green. Green doesn’t do anything particularly well but he is young and athletic, and his 6’9″ frame should provide a serviceable substitute for Paul Pierce. The real gem in this trade is the Clippers’ Top-10 protected 2012 draft pick, which is almost certainly going to be a lottery pick. The Celtics also managed not to lose any size. Ff anything, they got bigger. Krstic is two inches taller than Perkins and Green towers over Nate Robinson’s overstated 5’9″ frame.
The Celtics have faired rather well without Perkins in the lineup and Perkins has played rather miserably with the Celtics. These changes to the roster actually put Boston in a better position to defeat top-flight Eastern Conference foes like the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat. The Celtics were already the best defense in the NBA without Perkins. It is their offense that was struggling. Even though they shoot a league best 49.2% from the field, the Celtics only score 107.4 points per 100 possessions. That ranks them 14th overall in the NBA. Having both Green and Krstic in the lineup will help them put up more points and create match-up problems for other teams. As was evident last night when they opened up a 20-point halftime lead over the Phoenix Suns, finishing the game with 115 points, their 5th highest scoring game of the season.
Overall, the Celtics seem to have done well for themselves. On paper.
Unfortunately, this game isn’t played on shredded wood, it’s played on hardwood. And on that hardwood, there is a potent mixture of emotions, especially from a team like Boston. That’s the one thing Danny and his mathematicians might not have calculated. Most of the Celtics were deeply saddened to learn that Perkins wouldn’t be there for the long haul. Blindsided by the idea that Boston isn’t anymore of a “Brotherhood” as it is a business. But a resilient team like Boston will get over the loss of their “brother” and they will get it together come playoff time. This team is both intense and focused and they are all still willing to sacrifice everything, including a teammate in order to hoist up their 18th championship banner. That’s the one thing Danny Ainge is counting on it.
All player and team stats via www.Basketball-Reference.com – an NBA blogger’s best friend.
Shane is a new guest contributor to Larry Brown Sports. You can find him babbling about basketball all over the net or tune in as he tweets nonsense on twitter; @Suga_Shane.Google+