Kendrick Perkins has guided Kevin Durant* and mentored Steven Adams – the Oklahoma City Thunder’s best and arguably most-pivotal players, respectively.
*Durant during his MVP-acceptance speech on Perkins: “I hated you before you got here. But the moment you got here, man, you just changed my whole perception of you. Just one of the best teammates I’ve ever had. I thank you so much. The late-night calls after tough games, you texting me telling me I’m MVP – that meant a lot to me. Thank you.”
Perkins is also due $9,404,342 next season, the final year of his contract.
His on-court production no longer warrants that salary, but he also has a strong locker-room presence. The Thunder must balance those competing forces when facing the annual question:
Will Oklahoma City amnesty Perkins?
Thunder general manager Sam Presti, via Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman:
“I knew I’d get that question,” Presti said. “I wish I had something clever to say there, but I don’t. We’ll look at everything, as we always do. But as we’ve said before, it’s not something that’s been considered to this point.”
Well, that just can’t be true. Not even considering amnestying Perkins would be stupid, and Presti isn’t stupid. But if he doesn’t plan to amnesty Perkins, why dwell on the internal discussions about that decision?
Beyond Perkins’ value as a veteran leader, amnestying him wouldn’t accomplish much.
Amnestying Perkins would put the Thunder slightly below the projected salary cap, but they’d still have just the full non-taxpayer mid-level exception ($5,305,000) to spend on a free agent.
If the Perkins don’t amnesty Perkins, they could still spend the full mid-level exception without crossing into the luxury tax – though adding the bi-annual exception ($2,077,000) would put them over the line. So, there’s the slightest incentive to amnesty Perkins if Oklahoma City can use the bi-annual to replace him with a better player, which is not a given and would cost quite a bit of real dollars.
Plus, Perkins’ large expiring contract could prove useful in a trade. Those types of deals can always grease the wheels when non-matching salaries are involved.
In the meantime, Oklahoma City will be keeping a well-liked player who still has some value – even if it’s not as much as his paycheck.