Why Won't OKC Thunder Just Amnesty Kendrick Perkins Already?

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Why Won't OKC Thunder Just Amnesty Kendrick Perkins Already?
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It's no secret that Kendrick Perkins hasn't quite lived up to his expectations with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

It's also no secret that Perkins (extreme alliteration warning) is getting paid a pretty penny for poor production, which makes the idea of letting him go all the more tantalizing.

So why on Earth would the Thunder pay a player $8.9 million next season if all he pitched in this season were per-game averages of 4.2 points, 6.0 rebounds and a measly PER of 8.2?

The first thing that comes to mind here is that perhaps Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti has too much pride to cut his losses on the Kendrick Perkins Project. Presti was the one who orchestrated the deal with Boston to bring Perkins over to help the Thunder take the next step into contention.

When the deal was made and once the shock subsided a bit, Presti's vision of Perkins being the missing piece to a championship team became clearer. Presti valued Perk not as a statistical contributor, but more of an intangibles guy. In other words, Perkins was expected to bring a much-needed edge to the Thunder with his toughness and championship experience.

Thus far, Perkins has definitely brought those aspects to the table for the Thunder. His arrival helped spark a new sense of swagger and confidence in Oklahoma City. Instead of being labeled as a young team on the rise, the Thunder became immediate contenders instead.

However, guys like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have grown a lot in the past few seasons and it may no longer be necessary for them to have a veteran presence to guide them along.

Essentially, Perkins has been able to skate by with limited production, since he could always fall back on the in-game toughness and locker room presence that he offered. But now, he’s just not as important to this team.

So should Sam Presti feel ashamed about Perkins? Not at all. If anything, I'd say the mission was accomplished because Perkins has done just about what we expected him to do. He's been a physical presence in the paint, and he's shown that he can impact the game in critical moments, whether his play is legal or not.

Sure, the numbers during his Oklahoma City tenure weren't as good as they were in Boston. (Note: Perkins' 2010-2011 was split between the Celtics and Thunder).

But Kendrick Perkins was a big part in the Thunder defining their team identity.

Even if everyone else feels like it's time to move on from Perkins, Presti has yet to board that bandwagon. He may be the lone person in Oklahoma City who hasn't given up on Perk, still firmly believing that the veteran big man hasn't given the Thunder everything he's got—not everything...not yet.

(Sorry, but I couldn't resist the Dark Knight Rises reference there.)

Whatever you think the Thunder should do with Kendrick Perkins doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things. Sam Presti has already publicly stated that he would not be exploring the possibility of amnestying any player on the roster and even made a point to praise Perk after his rough postseason performance.

Now is this a case of Presti genuinely believing in the Thunder's starting big man, or is it a façade he's created to start searching for a replacement without upsetting Perkins?

My guess is the former, but it may definitely be a toss up. Presti, while loyal to the guys he brings in to OKC, isn't a dummy. He knows talent when he sees it, and he's proven that he can masterfully craft a team from the ground up.

Therefore, I do think that there is some legitimacy to Presti sticking to his guns but even he knows that Perkins may hinder the Thunder’s title hopes, as well.

Monetarily speaking, using the amnesty clause on Perkins would make a lot of sense. The amnesty clause can only be used once and on a player who was on contract before the CBA was signed in 2012. Therefore, the only players on the Thunder who could be amnestied would be Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins.

Can you see how he'd probably be the odd man out here?

Even with the cap relief the Thunder would receive by amnestying Perk, the current free agent options at center mostly fall into two categories. The first being good centers who would cost more than OKC can spend (i.e. Dwight Howard and Al Jefferson) and the second being affordable players who aren't quite starter material (e.g., Robin Lopez, DeJuan Blair and Chris Kaman).

Drafting a young replacement also sounds good in theory, but it would be risky, to say the least, for an unproven player to immediately see big minutes for a contending team,

I suppose a trade could possibly worked out for Perkins, but finding a suitor would be challenging considering his lowered value and hefty price tag. 

All things considered, it may be a bit rash at this point to amnesty Perkins, even though his play last season at times was appalling. We don't know if he has anything left in the tank or if he can bounce back to his previous form, but we do know that Presti has a pretty solid handle on what's best for the Thunder.

We've seen Presti help morph this team from a 23-win laughingstock into a 60-win powerhouse in just a few seasons. So I don't think him wanting to keep the Kendrick Perkins Project going is a matter of his pride blinding his better judgment. Rather, I think it's a matter of his dedication and patience to ride out some bumps that come along with the heightened expectations for this Thunder team.

Should Sam Presti keep the faith in Kendrick Perkins?

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This isn't a case of Presti refusing to accept defeat. Because whether you like it or not, Kendrick Perkins' tenure in OKC has generally been successful. This is all a matter of Presti pushing his luck a bit and banking on Perkins bouncing back this season as opposed to the risky path of installing a new piece to the Thunder that may end up hampering team chemistry.

So those of you trying to run Perk out of town will have to extinguish your torches and hang up your pitchforks for now, since he may very well be in OKC for years to come.

 

All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.

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