I love Twitter.
No, really. Love doesn’t properly describe my relationship with Twitter. Nor does obsessed. I honestly have no idea what I did before Twitter. How did us sports fans live? I honestly am at a loss for words.
How does Twitter have anything to do with my favorite Celtic, Kendrick Perkins, you ask?
The other night, during the Mavericks game, I was following a discussion on Twitter between Chad Finn of the Boston Globe (twitter handle: @GlobeChadFinn), Paul Flannery of WEEIcom (@Pflanns), and the guys at CelticsBlog.com (@celticsblog) regarding the game Perkins was having. And I was drawn to a comment from the CelticsBlog guy, who said:
People sometimes forget that Perkins was drafted in 2003 (like… me). 2003? Do you know what also happened in 2003? Grand Theft Auto Vice City came out (ok, fair, its was October 2002, but who’s counting?). Surely you remember. I know my college roommates and I do. Just look at our transcripts from that semester. And the spring semester.
But honestly, 2003? Kendrick has been in the league for seven years now? Wow.
But the tweet about Perkins by the CelticsBlog guys made me wonder – just how hard is it to develop a young big man in the NBA these days? For every Kendrick Perkins, who took years to develop into the talent that he is, there’s a Dwight Howard or Chris Bosh, guys who were impact players almost immediately upon entry into the NBA. Let’s take a look at some data, shall we? No, you say? Too bad, this is my post.
I went back and examined 10 years of NBA drafts, from 1998-2007. Here’s what I narrowed it down to:
Here’s those drafts:
That’s 47 18-21 year old centers and power forwards taken in the first round of NBA draft for a decade. How did NBA GMs do? Let’s break it down into some categories:
Amare, Bosh, and Howard.
Odom, Chandler, Randolph (really? Yes – look at his numbers this year), Perkins, Josh Smith, Bogut, Aldridge, Horford, and Green.
Brand – how do you judge someone as injured as him?
Bynum – he can be either above-average… or disappear.
Villanueva – have you ever noticed how much he looks like Panthro from Thundercats?*
*Note – I cannot take credit for this joke. I stole it from my buddy. Sorry, Mike.
Mohammed, Pryzbilla, Murphy, Dalembert, Okafor, Boone, Noah, and Hawes.
Thomas, Oden, and Wright.
Olowokandi, Traylor, Bender, Smith, Swift, Mihm, Moiso, Brown, Curry, Hunter, Bradley, Wilcox, Sweetney, Ebi, Swift, Humphries, Diogu, May, O’Bryant, and Williams.
So, in review, we have:
NBA GMs, when drafting in the first round, expect to at least draft quality starters or solid role players. But of 47 “big men” draft picks in a 10 year span, only 12 of them (26 percent) have turned into stars or above-average starters. If you factor in the next two categories, that brings you to 24 players (just over 50 percent) of big men who have turned into stars/starters/role players (and to be honest, Dalembert and Boone could just as easily be considered “busts”).
What does that tell us? Well, if you have a 50 percent failure rate among first round big-men, that would be the ultimate definition of “hit or miss,” no? Look at the burn rate for these big men. There are some incredibly epic busts among them, names like Olowokandi and Bender and Moiso (yes, all Celtics fans just collectively shuddered at the remembrance of the Pitino era).
But of these stars and starters among these groups, how many of them have taken as long as Perk to develop? The answer? None. Really, no. Look at it.
All of these guys were impact players right away in the league to some extent or the other. A guy like Tyson Chandler was an impact players right away on the defensive end, even if his offensive game never really matured too far. Same goes with Josh Smith (interesting note – both fellow high school picks like Perk). But NONE of them took nearly five years in the league to develop into a viable starter. Why did Perk take so long to develop, and why is he the success story that he is now?
The main question is, who deserves the credit for Perkins developing into an above-average NBA starter? Danny Ainge, first and foremost. Kendrick Perkins was Danny’s first first-round draft pick in his tenure in Boston. Danny has stuck by Perkins, signing him to a multi-year extension in 2007, a year after Perkins averaged merely 5.2 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Danny’s patience (along with Doc’s) have been critical in Kendrick’s development.
Most young centers are expected to shoulder heavy loads either immediately or within a couple of years of their entrance into the NBA. Fanbases get impatient when these guys don’t contribute immediately. Danny, Doc and Co. were incredible in giving Perk the room to grow into a true force in the middle on the defensive end of the floor.
Next up – Kevin Garnett. The difference in Perk’s game since KG arrived is stunning. He’s taken the pressure off Perk to grow on the offensive end, pushed him on the defensive end and on the boards, and often times providing help defense. His legendary intensity has been perfect for a young guy like Perk, a guy with equally impressive intensity, but not always great at channeling it (see: Perk’s technical fouls).
Third in line – Clifford Ray, Celtics assistant coach in charge of the bigs. Ray is the single best big-man coach in the NBA right now. He’s the man who taught Dwight Howard, and the man now in charge of mentoring Perk. If you look at Perk from his first two years, compared to this year, look at his footwork. Look at the way he uses his body to get position down low on both ends of the floor. Hell, look at how well he played against Howard last year in the playoffs. Ray has been a godsend to Perk.
And last but not least – let’s give Perk some damn credit. How rare is it these days to have a big-man drafted so young take so long to develop into a quality NBA starter?
Perk came into the league as a doughy, uncoordinated, unathletic 7-footer with some promise and a whole lot of skeptics. Over the past seven years, he has transformed himself incredibly athletic, chiseled anchor (who has completely revamped his body) down low for these Celtics teams, a man who can dominate the low post defensively, and a man who has rapidly improved on the offensive end to the point where his low post moves now resemble a young Kevin McHale in some regards.
This is a man whose mother was gunned down when Perk was five, whose father left his family when Perk was 18 months old to travel the world to play basketball, and who has overcome long odds against him (both on the court and off) to become an incredibly well-respected beast of a center in today’s NBA. It’s been a long seven years, but its definitely been worth it… almost as long as it took us to beat GTA: Vice City.
(leans back, turns up Wildstyle Pirate Radio…)
Now, where’s my Ndubi Ebi jersey?
Don’t forget to check out the Perk-Wear in the 4SB Online Store!