For one reason or another, there has been a misguided claim circulating throughout the NBA all season that Celtics center Kendrick Perkins is “underrated.” For this, I believe we have ESPN/ABC announcer Mike Breen to thank. After all, it was back in December that Breen peppered a Friday night Celtics telecast with several glowing advertisements for Perkins and ever since, his cohorts at ABC/ESPN and various announcing teams around the league have been singing the same “underrated” tune.
Well, I am here today to clear up this claim because for the life of me, I can’t figure out how in the world anyone can think this guy is underrated.
First off, how can this guy be underrated when the whole basketball establishment thinks so highly of him? By virtue of the fact that Breen, Van Gundy, Hubie and everyone else love him, doesn’t that imply that his rating is pretty damn high to start with? Let’s be honest here ….if we are working off a scale of 1-10 and five is league average, my guess is the folks at ABC, have this guy at about a 7. And if that is true, this guy has to be a play to at least a 7+ to be accurately termed: “underrated.” I think the record will show that Perkins hasn’t smelled a high-seven since high school.
So let’s dive in. The pro-Perk argument, as I have gleaned from Television, radio and the chats, is number 43 is tough. He bangs. He blocks shots. He defends. He rebounds. He shoots a super high percentage. And finally, he does the dirty things. Curiously, we never hear about his lack of athleticism, his susceptibility to turnovers and block shots, his horrendous foul shooting, his inability to draw the opposing center away from the basket, his trouble setting legal screens, his propensity to pick up technicals, and the difficulty he has guarding anyone whose feat aren’t set in granite blocks. More on most of this later.
But first, I want to address those who love the fact that Perkins leads the league in FG%. Yes, Perkins shoots a high percentage. But you know what …… Mark West is in the top-10 all-time in FG%. So is Steve Johnson. And so is Bo Outlaw. My point being, a high FG% by itself confirms very little. And in Perkins case, it is quite misleading. It is simply a function of Perk being able to finish off a chunk of charity he collects from Rondo and other inside dumps. How do I know this? Well, about 70 percent of Perkins field goals come off assists which is well above league average. That is the quantative case. And the qualitative case is I watch the games and know Rondo gives this guy two balls a night that no one in the NBA could miss. Once you back that out, Perk shoots about 46% on the balance.
With that out of the way, I want to address a few points that Perk’s supporters often overlook.
First off ……Kendrick Perkins is a turnover machine. What kind of machine, you may ask? Well, his turnover “rate,” per HoopData, is the third highest in the entire league among players who have played in 20 games and play 20 minutes a night. Only Tyson Chandler and Joel Pryzbilla are more generous with the ball. Additionally, among centers, Perkins is third worst in the league in turnovers/40 minutes. Bad passes, kicked balls, illegal screens ……whatever turnover you want, Kendrick has plenty of it on the menu.
If the turnovers weren’t bad enough, here is another interesting tidbit on Perkins. He has almost one entire shot blocked a game. That equals about 13 percent of all his shots. You want to know where that ranks, league-wide? Well, among 25+ minute guys, it is second in the entire league, only behind Sacto’s Carl Landry. And why does Perkins get so many shots rejected? For many of the same reasons he turns the ball over so often ….he is mechanical, he is clumsy, and he telegraphs everything. All told, between the turnovers and blocked shots, Perkins hands the opposing team 4.6 negative plays/40 minutes. You might as well puke that before you let that digest itself.
So Perkins is prone to turnovers. So what, says Breen. And Perkins is vulnerable to stuffs. So what, says Hubie. Well Mike and Hubie, that is not the end of the story. This is where I switch over to the lightening round ….. where I will make five final points.
1) Perk shoots under 60 percent from the line and is a liability at the end of the game.
2) Kendrick’s overall rebounding numbers are pretty good, but his offensive rebound totals are punk-city (2.8/40 min).
3) Agile centers give Perkins’ fits and he often struggles when defending pick and rolls.
4) Perk averages 4.2 fouls/40 minutes, which ranks 7th among centers who play 25 minutes a night. Mind you, this doesn’t include all the technicals. The grand total could probably be slashed by a quarter and Perk could up his minutes if he ever learned how to set a high pick without being whistled.
5)) And finally, check out this nugget from HoopData ….. Kendrick shoots just 15 percent on shots that are more than ten feet away from the hoop? FIFTEEN PERCENT! With that in mind, opposing centers pay Perkins no attention away from the hoop and this just clogs things up in the middle for Rondo and Pierce. And now you know why the Celts often fall apart late ….it’s because they are playing FOUR ON FIVE!
Listen, Kendrick Perkins is not completely worthless. He is relatively cheap. He is a big body. He is a decent rebounder. The team plays (slightly) better with him on the court. And on occasion, he can finish at the rim, assuming his defender leaves him and he gets there before the weakside block. But he isn’t much more than that and he certainly isn’t underrated. Unless of course, his rating suggests that he is a complete tool.