It’s long been an adventure watching Kendrick Perkins with a basketball in his hands. There have been passes to both empty spaces and opposing players, post ups that went nowhere and mid-range jumpers that have barely grazed the rim. Despite those moments, Scott Brooks still likes to involve his starting center in the offense because of all the other good things he does, even if on-off stats show a different effect all while playing 97 percent of his minutes with Kevin Durant.
At the same time, it’s also damaging to have a player on the court who never shoots the ball. Perkins is already in the bottom-10 in the NBA in field goals attempted per-36-minutes (Steven Adams as well, to be fair). Arguably the easiest and most valuable solution would be to not start him. A second, similar solution would be to play him the least possible minutes he’s content with. Both seem to have little to no chance of happening outside of a Finals matchup with Miami, so another alternative is to make halfway-decent lemonade with $9 million worth of lemons.
Just where Perkins is best with the ball, though, is tough to answer. He’s usually not quick enough to contribute to fast breaks and has trouble finishing around the rim in general, second-worst among big men with 50 or more attempts within the restricted area. The extra half-second he takes to bend his knees before elevating effects him the most around that part of the floor, allowing quick-recovering defenders to turn open layups into heavily contested ones. That’s a problem nobody else in the Thunder’s otherwise freakishly athletic rotation seems to have.
Another option is post ups, one of the most frequent looks for Perkins even though they’re a shaky choice at best. He’ll often take a second too long to measure up his defender, which signals that he’s about to overthink the process of scoring. Perk can physically impose his will to a decent spot, one that allows him to use a jump hook that sometimes doesn’t look half-bad but other times appears clunky, but when matched with a player that gives up little ground he’ll attempt a turnaround fadeaway that doesn’t exactly mimic LaMarcus Aldridge‘s. Regardless of the result, movement from every other Thunder player often comes to a screeching halt.
Then there’s Perkins’ jump shot, one that gets little to no respect for good reason but I can’t blame him for hoisting one anyway. If I had the ball above the free throw line and had to swing the ball, only my defender was ignoring me to disrupt off-ball movement from Kevin Durant and others, I’d want to step into a shot too. Some of Perkins’ mid-range jumpers do come in the flow of the game, like as the beneficiary of a drive-and-kick by Reggie Jackson Tuesday night against Portland.
And percentage-wise, Perkins’ shot hasn’t been bad over the last two seasons, shooting 39.8 percent. The sample size is small, though, as he’s only averaged less than one mid-range jumper per game. I don’t think there’s ever been a ~40 percent shooter from that area who has air balled or barely grazed rim on so many shots as he has:
So what scoring options are left if Perkins has a tough time around the rim, in the post, and from 15 feet out?
Believe it or not, he’s shown off a floater.
It doesn’t exactly mimic Shawn Marion’s, but the floater from the 280-pound center has been an effective way (he’s 10-for-15, according to video from NBA.com) to capitalize on attention Durant draws from multiple defenders. Surely he’d benefit off Russell Westbrook too if he were healthy.
Below are a few examples in slideshow format.
The floater solves a ton of Perkins’ problems. He takes those shots just outside the restricted area where he struggles mightily, and the extra time he needs to bend his knees and elevate doesn’t pose as much of a problem when he’s catching passes mid-stride. Perk will stop and ready to shoot just outside of a help defender’s reach, though it’s fine if he causes them to contest his shot. Serge Ibaka, the Thunder player whose defender is most likely to rotate over to Perkins, is often waiting for the offensive rebound.
The floater also keeps Perkins free from thinking. It’s similar to what Seth Partnow at Where Offense Happens wrote about Harrison Barnes a few weeks ago, for example. Keep it simple, and Perk does. He doesn’t pump fake or back his defender down with a series of dribbles, but instead takes the floater before the defense adjusts towards the paint. Like mentioned before, the quick shot by Perkins also gives Ibaka a greater chance at an offensive rebound since there’s one less opponent in the paint.
There’s also the realization from the opposition that Perkins is scoring on them. Back in the lockout-shortened 2012 season there was the game between the Timberwolves and Clippers where Kevin Love sank a game-winning three, but before that shot was a series of events that included Darko Milicic banking a floater off the dribble. Hubie Brown called it demoralizing for the Clippers, who were without Chris Paul that night. I’d like to think the same thing is felt by anyone getting beat by the Thunder not because of Durant or Ibaka, but Kendrick Perkins and his floater.
The sample size is still small for that kind of shot, but going 10-for-15 is a nice start for Perk. Factored in with the rest of his shots from five to nine feet out, he’s one of the best shooters in the league from that area. It won’t turn the world upside down if Oklahoma City gets him more of those looks than post ups (unless you’re netw3rk) since he only takes 3.3 field goal attempts per game as is, but even if the floaters balance out to roughly 50 percent they’re still a two-pointer dropping at the same rate as open mid-range jumpers from Ibaka. It’s also a nice alternative in the playoffs when the game slows down and every available option on offense counts.
Going forward, whether that unusual shot from Perkins is enough to save his starting slot from Steven Adams remains to be seen, but both that and Brooks’ stubbornness should keep him in the lineup for the rest of this season.
Okay, maybe the reason will only be Brooks’ stubbornness. How often Perk’s floater could be used over the next couple months or so and whether or not it deflects attention from the rest of his flaws is hard to tell. Regardless, it’s a chance to make the best of a situation Brooks hasn’t shied away from, save for that second half against Miami two weeks ago. Hopefully he helps Perk become less of a comedic adventure with the basketball in his hands and more of a finisher.