How Kendrick Perkins makes a difference

Kendrick Perkins was brought to Oklahoma to defend Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, not Tony Parker. Against the Spurs quickness, he has occasionally appeared hopelessly overmatched. But on the balance, his terrific post defense, particularly on Tim Duncan, has been a boon to the Thunder.

Duncan is shooting just under 38 percent from the field in this series after he shot nearly 60 percent from the field in the Spurs’ four game sweep of the Clippers. Here are the key reasons why Kendrick is such an effective post defender.

Light feet

Perkins’ dramatically changed his body during the lockout, reportedly dropping 31 lbs and dramatically improving his quickness. Though he remains vulnerable in space, in the post, Perkins’ footwork has been solid. He has been able to cut off Tim Duncan and prevent him from finding angles towards the rim. When he can avoid being beat by the first move, his strength and size allow him to bother Duncan without over-pursuing the Big Fundamental’s fakes.

Big ol’ body

Despite being 31 pounds lighter, Perkins is still a huge man. He outweighs all of the Spurs’ big men save DeJuan Blair who hasn’t played much in this series. His sheer mass has forced Duncan to fade away in the post throughout the series, which, more than anything, is the likely cause of his low FG percentage. Against smaller or less talented defenders, Duncan can turn over either shoulder and shoot a jumper, baby hook, or running sweep. Because he’s unable to move Perkins off his spot, Tim has been unable to use his full arsenal of post moves, and thus has been less effective than usual. Because of Perkins’ physical play, Duncan has turned to his stronger right side on the majority of post catches in this series. Duncan did counter in Game 4 by turning left and banking his undefendable hook shot on two separate possessions, but other than those two plays, most of Duncan’s 21 points were dunks or layups off of penetration when Perkins was forced to help.

Another way Perkins uses his body is on the glass, where OKC is averaging 11 offensive rebounds per game in this series. He’s like a nose tackle in football that demands two blockers, opening up sack opportunities for speedy defensive ends. Even if he doesn’t come down with the board, he forces two or more Spurs to box him out on every shot, giving the Thunder’s athletic wings a chance to come up with the offensive rebound.

Long arms

While teammate Serge Ibaka gets most of the adulation for blocking shots, it’s Perkins who has the longer wingspan (7’6”). He has used this impressive reach to record seven blocks over four games including five on the Big Fundamental. The majority of these have come in the post, which is impressive when you consider Duncan’s size and skill on the block. The rejections seem to be in Tim’s head a bit as he has favored the fade away over the power move to the hoop for the majority of this series.

Keen awareness

When watching Perk, it seems like he’s never out of arm’s reach of Duncan. When the Spurs run their patented high pick-and-roll with the Big Fundamental, Perk shows on the ball handler and recovers to Duncan quickly. He runs to the spot where Duncan is headed to meet him head on. He doesn’t flail and chase like some bigs are apt to do in rotation. It must be said that overall, Perkins’ defense on pick-and-roll is only as good as his help, but his focus and communication on the defensive end are key for the Thunder as they try to stifle one of the NBA’s most potent offenses.

Goatee

It can be neither confirmed nor denied that all of Perkins’ power is derived from his goatee. He’s like a 6’10” Egyptian Pharaoh with that thing. However odd his facial hair might seem though, there’s no denying that it fits him and his Old Testament style of play perfectly. Besides, it’s not even the strangest hair on the team. Thanks, James.

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