More talented? Check.
More productive? Check.
Add healthier to Steven Adams’ advantages over Thunder starting center Kendrick Perkins.
On Thursday afternoon, Thunder GM Sam Presti announced that incumbent starter Kendrick Perkins had recently strained his quad. Perkins will miss the start of camp and be reevaluated in two weeks.
Does this clear the way for Oklahoma City to move Adams into the starting lineup, maybe even keeping him there permanently?
The rest of Presti’s preseason press conference, which was littered with defense-first, stick-to-the-plan statements, would indicate that Perkins remains the favorite to keep his starting role.
The 21-year-old Adams impressed as a reserve last season, and he’s ready for a bigger role – especially when Perkins, who has become too slowed with age to help much on the court, is above him. To be fair, Perkins possess leadership value, which is why the Thunder didn’t amnesty him.
One of the only on-court advantages Perkins can claim over Adams – and it’s debatable how relevant this even is – is more experience with Oklahoma City’s other starters.
The Thunder’s most-used lineup last season – Russell Westbrook Reggie Jackson, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Perkins – outscored opponents by 5.8 points per 100 possessions. Swap Adams for Perkins and that advantage jumps to 32.7 (!) points per 100 possessions.
However, the lineup with Adams played just 28 minutes, so we’re dealing with an extremely small sample. Would Oklahoma City maintain such a large net rating in the long run with Adams? No way. But would it be substantially higher than with Perkins? I think so, and the Thunder should use him more to find out.
Adams will work more with the first team while Perkins is out, and that will diminish Perkins’ advantage of more comfort with Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka and Jackson. Rookie Mitch McGary should get more reps, too, and this could him get ready for a rotation role this season.
When Perkins returns, maybe he’ll immediately re-join the starting lineup. The Thunder have been stubborn about this. But maybe Adams uses this as an opportunity to change the rotation once and for all