Saturday, February 26, 2011

Not so Instant Trade Analysis: Perkins to the OKC Thunder

Boston Gets: Nenad Krstic, Jeff Green and a 2012 first rounder (from the Clippers)

OKC Gets: Kendrick Perkins, Nate Robinson

Wow. I was absolutely blown away when I heard about this trade. My instant reaction was being elated - I couldn't believe that Boston gave away a key piece that led to two of their Finals runs in 3 years (including a 2008 title) the guy who haunts Andrew Bynum's dreams and has regularly punked around the Lakers bigs and Dwight Howard over the past few seasons. But as a couple days have passed, I've gotten some perspective on this one.

I think that the Thunder win this trade, on multiple fronts. They got the enforcer they needed - notice I didn't say "the big they needed"; I meant the enforcer. The reason the Thunder haven't been able to get over "the hump" and become contenders for the Western Conference crown, is that they simply couldn't bang with the Lakers or the Spurs. Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison, Nenad Krstic - fine players all, who aren't afraid to play defense or take a shot in the post. But no one was scared of those guys. Sure Nick Collison is a tough dude and Serge Ibaka came from the motherfucking Congo ("Hey man, where are you from?" "Oh I'm from Fort Collins. It's a little town outside of Denver. It's got some sweet breweries and the cutest little sweet shop by the King Soopers" - that's not scary. "Hey man, where are you from?" "Oh, I'm from the MOTHERFUCKING CONGO" - that's scary), but those guys weren't going to mess you up. You could push them around, get shots on them and generally take over a game. But with Perkins? That's not happening. OKC is tougher on the block, and no one is going to be running over them anymore. Perkins isn't an all-star, he's not a 15 ppg guy, but he's certainly a guy that's going to shut down your best big come hell or high water. You could win a title with him at the 5. Which has happened. But not when I talk about that. Because that game made me cry for the first time in 3 years.

I keep on hearing that this makes them contenders in the West now. And I have to agree. You have to put them in the conversation with the Lakers, the Mavs and the Spurs. But I'm not sure this makes them better. I'll get to that in a bit.

I'm not sure where Nate Robinson fits in with this OKC team - they already have James Harden and Maynor off the bench, along with Thabo Sefolosha and Westbrook. All four of those guys are better defenders than Nasty Nate. He can put up points on a streak, but he can't defend anyone and I'm not sure they need another guy putting up points out there.

On Boston's end - I still don't get it, mostly for the following reason: As Kenny the Jet said on TNT on Thursday, when the Celtics traded away Perkins, they traded away the thing that gave them one of the biggest edges in the league, the psychological edge. Whenever you stepped on the court with the Celtics, you saw Perk and Garnett standing side to side. KG would be slapping himself in the head or eating a fetus or whatever, and Perk would be there with his scowl (I just googled "Kendrick Perkins smiling". The results are hilarious. One is his NBA profile picture he took 3 seasons ago, another is at his wedding and another is a pic of him as a child. That's all that you can find. I heard when his first kid was born, he clapped, that's it). You knew even before the game that when you were going to play the Celtics, no matter what the outcome, you were gonna get your ass beat. It was going to be a rough game and your 4 and 5 positions were going to have a tough night. Without Perkins, the C's have lost a lot of their psychological advantage. Sure KG is the most intense, and Pierce is the most outwardly cocky, but Perkins was the most intimidating. He was so physically tough, handling guys like Dwight, Rasheed, Bynum and Gasol with single coverage. He never backed down from a fight and always has that scowl and furrowed brow (Seriously, he's so damn scary. I actually don't know that and can't really imagine he's ever had sex. Consensually, anyway). True story - I didn't know he was only 6'10" until last year. He always played so tough that I never noticed his size. It never seemed to handicap him.

Sure, they needed a small forward to spell Pierce. They were depending on Marquis Daniels and Von Wafer to provide real minutes for a title contender, which would be fine for the D-League, but not the real NBA. Green is a fine fine player, 24 years old, and has a lot of potential considering he was the playing out of position as a 3rd option on a team where Durant and Westbrook were taking 37 shots a game. He could be much better than any of us think - I think a lot of opinions on this trade have to be reserved until we see just how good Jeff Green is.

For the Celtics to make this trade, it had to be more than this though - and I surmise it's because Perkins is much more hurt than any of us know. The Celtics saw him in practice, saw him go through the motions of the week and how it limited him not just for 48 minutes, but for every minute of every day. In giving up Perkins, they gave up a lot - not just talent on the court, but chemistry for a perenially dangerous title contender with a limited window. And that's the most surprising part of this trade. Doc has gone on and on about how this team's starting five has never been defeated, and then they traded the guy who started that quote away? If this trade is planning for the future, that's the dumbest part about it. There is no future for this team. The window is closing and the time is now.

One more note - while I fully believe that GM Danny Ainge made his team worse with this trade, he put Perkins on a team that with him, could potentially stop the Lakers in the West. If Kendrick's absence is the most glaring hole if the C's were to play the Lakers in the Finals, why not help another team eliminate them so you don't have to deal with that? Berry berry sneaky Mr. Ainge.

Overall, the Thunder win this one, by a lot. God help me if I hear that quote again from Doc though.

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