Should the OKC Thunder Amnesty Kendrick Perkins in 2013 Offseason?

Ethan Sherwood StraussNBA Lead WriterSeptember 7, 2012

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 21:  (L-R) Serge Ibaka #9, Kevin Durant #35 and Kendrick Perkins #5 of the Oklahoma City Thunder talk on court against the Miami Heat in Game Five of the 2012 NBA Finals on June 21, 2012 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Amnestying Kendrick Perkins would be somewhere between inevitable and wise, as he just doesn't command his current salary. Despite all the odes to his "toughness" and "heart," Perkins just isn't a very good starting NBA center. This is similar to how Derek Fisher, despite his veteran aura, simply wasn't a very good backup point guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder

It's especially difficult for OKC to retain Perkins now that Serge Ibaka has been inked to a roughly $12 million per year deal. The contract is good for the Thunder, but still pricey over a four-season span. 

Money should get even tighter when OKC (probably) re-signs James Harden. It has the cap room to lock up its core four, provided there are no other large salary commitments. Also important: Harden wants to stay in Oklahoma (via The Daily Thunder):

I only focus on playing. I want to keep playing with the Thunder. I feel like home and the team is special. My teammates are like my family. We can do big things. We’ll see what happens.

Perkins would be an inhibiting salary commitment, as he is owed $27 million over three years. Parting with him would give Oklahoma City pause were he the Boston incarnation of Kendrick Perkins. Instead, Perk is more the Blake Griffin'd incarnation of Kendrick Perkins: 

With his size and post defense, Perkins does provide some value in getting stops. The problem is, against the wrong team, his defense is a non-factor. If OKC plays a team with quick pick-and-roll guards, Perkins can appear a man at sea on high screens. He's a plus defender, but he has some highly exploitable flaws.

More importantly, Kendrick Perkins has turned into a drag on the offense. With Perk on the floor, Oklahoma City scored nearly eight points fewer per 100 possessions (per Basketball Value) last season.

Perkins finished 2012 with a miserable 8.69 player efficiency rating. Though never a three-point shooter, Perkins shot below 50 percent (.489), while rarely drawing fouls (he shoots fewer than two free throws per game).

Though the Thunder are wholly invested in giving Perkins early post touches, he's terrible at converting such opportunities. Last season, that flat hook shot helped KP claim only a 33 percent field-goal mark between three and nine feet.

There has been some buzz recently that the Thunder must keep Perkins now that Dwight Howard is playing for the Lakers. If OKC were currently carrying the Boston version of KP, I could certainly understand.

I would caution against expecting the Howard killer when their last standoff ended in a 70 percent, 33-point outing for Dwight. While Perkins can push back against the occasional post move, his lack of quickness should be his undoing against a fast big like Howard.

That's how I see it. Perkins' lack of quickness should lead Oklahoma City to part with him quickly. I would vote for sooner over later, though I expect the amnesty to come sometime before next fall. In the meantime, Perkins has much to prove.