Kendrick Perkins Trade: Can Boston Celtics Win the East Without Him?

Allen LevinCorrespondent IIFebruary 25, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 15:  Kendrick Perkins #43 of the Boston Celtics looks on while taking on the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Six of the 2010 NBA Finals at Staples Center on June 15, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  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

After one of the most active trade deadlines that the NBA has witnessed in recent history, the league has been completely retooled as a bundle of marquee players were moved to different teams. Most notably, Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams were dealt to the New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets, respectively.

Anthony and Williams transfer to the Eastern Conference has shifted the balance of power from the West to the East as the majority of the top players now reside in the East.

Although Anthony and Williams were the biggest acquisitions before the deadline, many other teams made notable trades involving impact players. In a very surprising move, the East-leading Boston Celtics dealt center Kendrick Perkins and point guard Nate Robinson to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic and a 2012 first-round pick.

For anyone who supports, watches or has any knowledge of the NBA, this move has them pondering: What the bleep were the Celtics thinking?

Yes, there are the obvious reasons: Perkins' health issues, his impending free agency and the fact that Boston probably wouldn't have been able to re-sign him in the offseason.

Still, why would the Celtics trade away a core piece of their starting lineup who has been with the team the last seven-and-a-half years and, more importantly, an integral part of their championship squad?

Perkins has been invaluable to the Celtics over the last three seasons since they went and acquired their "Big Three" and won that title in 2008. He has been a big body that's exhibited toughness and a defense-first mentality. He was an enforcer for Boston, and now he is gone as the NBA hits the stretch run of the regular season with the playoffs looming.

So, this trade begs the question: Can the Celtics win the Eastern Conference without Perkins?

Even without Perkins, Boston still has an extremely talented and deep team of veterans. The Celtics still have an excellent starting lineup and plenty of players who can produce off the bench. And it's not as if they got no one in return.

The Celtics picked up a very solid wing player in Green, who can bring energy and scoring off the bench. He is averaging 15 points and 5.2 rebounds this season, so he will add a nice scoring punch to the Celtics bench.

In Krstic, they get a talented seven-footer who can spread the floor for Boston with his jump shooting. He is a finesse player who shoots at an efficient 50 percent from the floor, while grabbing 4.4 rebounds per game.

Although the Celtics did gain two valuable role players, the fact is they changed the dynamic of their team. They traded away a player who helped make them what they are: a tough, defense-first team that makes teams work for every point and doesn't allow them to get inside.

Perkins has been that power player and defensive big man during the Celtics' run at the top of the East for the last several years. Along with Kevin Garnett, he instituted a scary and formidable frontcourt that has made the Celtics one of the fiercest defensive teams in the league.


Celtics Teammates Shocked By Deal

Without him, the makeup of their roster has been completely altered. Now, Boston's road to win its second championship in the last four years all of a sudden got much tougher. The East already got a lot better this season with the Heat's league-shaking offseason, as well as Chicago and New York's vast improvements.

As Boston's competition made huge upgrades, the Celtics quietly tinkered their lineup by adding more size in Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal. With both O'Neal's, Glen "Big Baby" Davis and Perkins in place, the Celtics had one of the most revered frontcourts in the NBA.

Taking Perkins out of the equation is a major loss to this team in terms of size, chemistry and morale.

After the trade, the Celtics veterans didn't hide their shock and disappointment.

"Very tough day to play basketball and to even concentrate to be honest. We felt like we lost a family member," Garnett said in an interview.

Even Coach Doc Rivers expressed his disappointment over the trade.

"It definitely hurts to lose Perk. I've gotten a chance to see him grow as a player and a person."

While the front office might be rationalizing this move with Perkins contract uncertainty and the fact that he's been injured for the entirety of the season, it still has many people inside the Celtics organization raising an eye brow.

Despite the fact that Perkins has only played 12 games this season, he had just returned from injury and gotten back into the lineup. He was starting to get back into the swing of things and posted an efficient 7.3 points and 8.1 boards in 26 minutes per game so far.

With Perk back in the lineup, the Celtics were at full strength and geared for the final 26 games of the season. Now, they only have 26 games to establish chemistry with their new pieces. And in a virtual tie with Miami for first seed in the East, they're definitely is cause for concern in Beantown.

Boston is going to have a tough time beating out Miami for the Eastern Conference now. Size and a deep frontcourt were Boston's main advantages over the Heat. The Celtics were able to bully Miami around with their superiority in size and rebounding.

Now, the Heat have power forward Udonis Haslem returning in time for the postseason. Haslem is essentially Miami's version of Perkins. He is a scrappy player with a strong inside presence that can grab rebounds, defend with passion and be a team leader. Many analysts believe he is Miami's missing ingredient for a championship run.

Without Perkins and with the return of Haslem, Boston doesn't quite have that same edge over Miami anymore. They will not be ably to bully the Heat like they have earlier this season.


Morale Loss

Another major reason why it will be even more difficult for the Celtics to take the East without Perkins is simply because of morale. Perkins was drafted by the Celtics and has played his entire career in Boston. He was a fan favorite and truly respected by everyone inside the organization, so this makes the trade that much harder to swallow for Boston fans and players.

The Celtics have been criticized highly for their age and ability to remain healthy throughout the playoffs, so this move has some benefits being that Green is only 24 years old. It also guarantees that Boston doesn't lose Perkins in the offseason for nothing.

Still, I think most would agree that the negatives outweigh the positives here. Boston lost a crucial defensive presence that has been a huge part of the team's reign at the top of the East. And more importantly, the Celtics lost a beloved member of the team, which effects the overall morale in the locker room. It was evident how upset KG and the other Celtics veterans were after the deal.

So now, the Celtics will have to figure out how to win the East with two new pieces in place and will have to do so quickly. They only have 26 games remaining to find the chemistry that has made them so effective and dangerous in the first place.

If Green and Krstic don't transition smoothly into the lineup and the team's defense suffers without Perkins, then the Celtics will have a very hard time winning the East. Only time will tell, but there is no doubt that the Celtics will face a much tougher task repeating as Eastern Conference champs this year.

You can bet that the Heat have a very large smile on their faces as their chance to win a title just received an unexpected boost.