The Thunder are dominant on both sides of the ball, with supreme rankings in terms of efficiency. They lead the league in points per game, third in field-goal percentage, tied for first in three-point percentage and third in adjusted field-goal percentage.
Defensively, they come in at 11 in opponent points per game, yet second in opponent field-goal percentage. OKC also ranks second in blocks per game, which isn't a reliable measure of defense, but points to their energy on that side of the court.
The most exciting aspect about this team is their youth and the collective potential the Thunder have to be a dominant organization for many years. However, to fully encompass this mindset and progression, the trade of Kendrick Perkins would largely benefit this transition.
The big man out of Texas is currently averaging four points, 6.1 rebounds and a block in 25 minutes of action, his lowest total since the 2007-08 season. He is also shooting a career-worst 42.7 percent from the floor.
Perkins is generally regarded as a defensive presence, so his offensive game is not a source of concern. He is not a defender with great athleticism, but more of a body inside to take up space and physically intimidate opponents. However, his play this season has not held this assumption true.
During the Thunder's 114-108 win against the Lakers on December 7, Dwight Howard was able to explode for 23 points, 18 rebounds and 52.9 percent shooting. Perkins is not entirely to blame, as he was only on the court for 23 minutes. After committing his fifth foul, coach Scott Brooks sat him for the night.
In the very same game, reserve Nick Collison was able to put up 13 points (5-of-7 shooting) and snatch seven rebounds in just 17 minutes. His mobility and strength inside gave the Thunder a much-needed boost from the frontline, which leads to thinking as to whether Perkins is no longer needed and could potentially be replaced by Collison.
He posts a measly 8.3 Player Efficiency Rating, which is very low. Collison, on the other hand, has a PER of 15, which is the standard average of any player. Additionally, Perkins allows an average of 17.85 from opponents, which is higher than Collison's opponent PER of 16.5. The numeric difference isn't much, but it essentially the difference between the efficiency and play of Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade. Or, in a much more appropriate comparison, the separation between Kevin Love and Kosta Koufos.
However, this statistic does not tell all, yet Perkins on- and off-court ratings do give insight into how OKC fares with and without him. The Thunder score 113.2 points per 48 minutes and yield 102.6 points with Perkins on the court. Once he heads to the bench, the Thunder's offense boosts to 114.7 points under the same basis and allow 104.7 points to their opponent.
For OKC's secondary sixth man, they score 116.4 points and allow 104.2 per 48 minutes with Collison on the court. His presence also increases their rebounding percentages, elevating from 49.1 with Perkins to 51.5 percent. An important trend in this area is how Collison's play elevates their offensive rebounding percentage by 5.8 percent.
What you can safely take from the aforementioned, and perhaps overbearing, mixture of statistics is that the Thunder are a more efficient team with Collison playing over Perkins. He was once a hustling, defensive big man but has become merely a player to body up against larger opponents. With Perkins' $25.4 million contract over the next two-and-a-half seasons, it adds unnecessary bloating and tax penalties to Oklahoma City's payroll.
One of the biggest stories this season was the trade of James Harden to Houston. The primary instigator of the situation was the team's desire to give the reigning Sixth Man a pay cut and avoid the luxury tax. Had the team looked to move Perkins' overpriced deal, they could have retained the stellar guard and kept their core together. By shipping him elsewhere, the team not only saves millions in luxury tax penalties, but also gets a more efficient and cheaper contributor in Collison ($7.7 million over two-and-a-half years).
Perkins is undoubtedly a fan favorite, but his play has dropped considerably. He cannot stay on the floor long enough to contribute well (2.7 fouls in 25 minutes) and doesn't contribute enough even when he can stay on the court. To give you an appropriate portrait, Ronny Turiaf, Joel Anthony and Kwame Brown all possess a higher PER. Of the 50 centers that qualify for that statistic, Perkins ranks 49th.
The Thunder can keep Perkins and continue forward on their incredible run this season, but moving the big man is beneficial to the team both currently and for the future. OKC is the mold of a fast, energetic and athletic team—a mold Kendrick Perkins does not fit in.