According to Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic, the Oklahoma City Thunder are talking to the Phoenix Suns about a potential Kendrick Perkings and Gortat swap:
Much of the Suns’ trade talk seems to have simmered down as the Thursday 1 p.m. deadline nears, but there is one more possibility.
ESPN.com reported New York’s interest in Jermaine O’Neal and Toronto’s interest in Sebastian Telfair while another source said there was All-Star break talk of Oklahoma City exploring Marcin Gortat and P.J. Tucker for Kendrick Perkins, Jeremy Lamb and a first-round pick.
As an offensive oriented center, Gortat isn’t as good a fit defensively as the more overbearing Perkins would be. As Phoenix attempts to redefine themselves as a defensive stalwart, Perkins appears to be a good pick. Known to be in the middle of an extensive rebuild, Jeremy Lamb and that future first-round pick would be valuable as well.
Is it worth it for the Thunder, though? They hold the second-best record in the league and Perkins supposedly gives them the defensive edge against a team like the Miami Heat.
The key word here is “supposedly,” because Perkins isn’t as valuable on defense as most would believe. He’s an adequate shot blocker but his difficulty running the floor is hardly an asset when defending in transition and his conditioning has never allowed him to average 30 minutes per game for an entire season over his career.
Still, while he was never thought to fit Oklahoma City’s pace of play on offense (or defense for that matter), he was still a necessary evil.
Or so we thought.
The Thunder are actually allowing fewer points per 100 possessions with him off the floor. Not by much, but given they’re also scoring more with him off and he’s supposed to be a defensive stopper, it’s a problem.
Per 82games.com, Perkins is also allowing opposing centers to post an average PER of 16.8 per 48 minutes, above the league average of 15. Is that really of value for the Thunder?
As for Gortat’s defensive mediocrity, he’s actually keeping opposing centers at a 16.4 PER per 48 minutes. Yet again, we have another edge. A slight one, yes, but an advantage all the same.
Now, when broken down further, it must be noted Perkins still seems to come out on top. Per Synergy Sports (subscription required), Gortat is allowing 0.94 points per possession on defense to Perkins’ 0.78. Gortat is more mobile than Perkins and can defend above the break if needed, but when it comes to locking down during post-ups and the like, big Kendrick has the clear edge.
Yet for what the Thunder are looking to do, I’d have to admit that it’s Gortat who would be the better fit. Not only is he not as much a defensive liability as some believe him to be, but he can play 30-plus minutes per night. For a team like Oklahoma City that relies heavily on its starters, he fits the mold better. Not to mention that Perkins is easily a liability in some defensive aspects as well. That Gortat doesn’t make the Thunder play a “man down” on offense is merely a bonus.
Relinquishing Lamb and a first-round pick isn’t going to be easy, but Oklahoma City has yet to find use for Lamb and it’s a weak draft this year anyway. If the opportunity to acquire Gortat materializes then, the Thunder should be ready and willing to jump on it. Doing so will make them more formidable a contender and more complete a team.
And here we thought that wasn’t even possible.
Dan Favale is a and firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.