Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks will not be able to lean on Kendrick Perkins for the next six weeks — something that will be welcomed by a lot of Thunder fans. At least until they see the team is 0-3 without him this season and the defense suffers.
Perkins will be out up to six weeks following surgery to repair a strained groin suffered last Thursday night against the Heat, first reported by Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman and now confirmed by the team.
Perkins was injured in the third quarter last Thursday and did not play Sunday against the Clippers, with rookie Steven Adams starting in his place. However, at crunch time at the end of the game Brooks went with a smaller lineup of Serge Ibaka, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Reggie Jackson and Derek Fisher (the Clippers had a 13-2 run late to win that game).
Brooks has leaned on Perkins against lineups where he has nobody to really guard (the Miami Heat small lineup being the most obvious), much to the frustration of fans. Brooks goes back to Perkins at the end of games giving the opposing team an obvious guy to help off of (and a guy near the basket making it easier for the opposing big to protect the rim).
The knock on Perkins is what he does to the Thunder offense — they go from scoring 110.1 points per 100 possessions when he is sitting on the bench to 102.7 when he is on the court (because he is not a weapon, despite the fact the Thunder force feed him a few post possessions early every game). The Thunder defense gets a little worse, one point per 100, when he sits, but that doesn’t compensate for the offense. Bottom line, the Thunder and 8.2 points per 100 better with him on the bench.
That said, you can’t just plug someone in for Perkins and make it work, it’s not an accident they are 0-3 without him.. This season when you sub in Adams for Perkins with the rest of the Thunder’s usual starting five (Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Durant and Ibaka) the Thunder get 14.2 points per 100 possessions worse, mostly because their defense gives up 122 points per 100 possessions (this would be small sample size theater, as Adams has only played 82 minutes with that group). Adams has a chance here, but he is inexperienced and that shows at times, something that will cost the Thunder as he learns.
Perkins has a role on this team and in certain matchups can be crucial. The good news is this injury will force Brooks to go away from his crutch and find other rotations that work for Oklahoma City, something that can benefit them in the playoffs.
But it’s not as simple as saying Oklahoma City is better without Perkins. Reality is more nuanced than that.