Kendrick Perkins: Thunder Beat Warriors in 2016 WCF If They Had Traded for Me

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistApril 22, 2020

SAN ANTONIO,TX - MARCH 30:  Kendrick Perkins #5 of the New Orleans Pelicans walks toward the bench during game against the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center on March 30, 2016 in San Antonio, Texas.  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 Cortes/Getty Images)
Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

If you watched the 2016 NBA Western Conference Finals and thought the outcome might have been different with Kendrick Perkins on the Oklahoma City Thunder, you apparently weren't the only one.

Perkins told The Athletic's Joe Vardon that the Thunder unsuccessfully attempted to acquire the then-New Orleans Pelican midway through the 2015-16 season. Had the center gone to OKC, the 35-year-old believes he would've helped the team beat the Golden State Warriors.

"If I was on Oklahoma City, we wouldn't have blown that 3-1 lead," he said. "There's no way in hell we would have blown that. I'm not saying because of me playing, I am saying just my locker room presence.

"Then I think about it on the other hand—he cost me a championship," Perkins said of then-New Orleans general manager Dell Demps. 

Kevin Durant might beg to differ with Perkins.

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The difficulty with Durant's stance is that locker room leaders can be a valuable asset, especially during critical stages of the season.

As much as general managers and coaches attempt to optimize their rosters and lineups based on statistical trends, the human element is still a part of the game. Some would argue that's where the Houston Rockets have continued to fall short.

Having said that, it's hard to see where Perkins would've helped in what were the two pivotal games of that Thunder-Warriors series.

Losing Game 5 to Golden State at Oracle Arena wasn't too surprising for Oklahoma City because the 73-win simply weren't going to drop that game.

The turning point game when Klay Thompson scored 41 points—shooting 11-of-18 from beyond the arc—in Game 6. He helped the Warriors claim a 54-point edge in three-point scoring.

Unless his plan was to dish out some hard fouls on the perimeter, Perkins wouldn't have done much to slow down Golden State's long-range barrage.

Maybe the former center could've helped the team remain even-keeled ahead of a Game 7 at Golden State, but the Thunder didn't unravel until well into the night.

They led 48-42 at halftime, so they didn't appear to be shell-shocked after failing to clinch the series at home. Getting outscored 29-12 in the third quarter is when things fell apart for OKC.

Durant's comments from January may offer some insight into where Perkins' former teammates would fall in that conversation.