Thinking over some of the elite teams in the NBA over the years, we can point to a dominant big man on most of them. The Lakers of the 80s had Kareem, the Celtics of the 80's had Parish, Pistons of the 80s had Laimbeer, the Rockets had Akeem and Sampson, the Lakers of the 90s had Shaq and now the Heat have Shaq, the Spurs had Robinson and now Duncan. There does seem to be a trend whereas even fast break teams like today's Heat and the Showtime Lakers had a big man to anchor them in the middle.
It is no secret that the center position is one of the hardest to fill with a dominant player. It is also one of the most crucial spots to fill. Where do the Celtics stand as far as their big men? Do we have a center who has the ability to dominate in the middle? I believe we do.
Perk is entering his 4th year now. Coming directly from high school, it was expected that he would take longer to develop than if we had brought in a player with college experience. His first year can't be considered to be any experience at all. He played in only 10 games and averaged a paltry 3.5 minutes per game. But during that year, he worked very, very hard on getting his body into NBA shape and he has become a strong and muscular center that no one (not even Shaq) can push around. Since we saw so much of him in his first year, no one really knew what we had in him.
After his lost first year, he didn't fare much better in the second year. He played in only 60 games and averaged a shade over 9 minutes per game. By this time, the fans had begun to see what Perk could really do and on just about every board and blog you could read posts asking why Perk wasn't getting more time because he was producing when he was in the game. He still had a propensity to foul more than he should have, but he was rebounding and playing hard and was capable of changing the game by shutting down the middle. But still, he sat way more than he played. In December, Raef was out with an ankle injury and Perk got a chance to finally play some real minutes. He played a career high 25 minutes and showed what he is capable of by controlling the rebounds on both ends of the court and finished with 13 total. When he got the playing time, he produced, but for some reason, he was still kept on the bench most of the time.
Last year started out with much of the same. He racked up several DNP's and played sparing minutes behind Raef and Blount. After the trade, Perk was moved into the starting lineup and he produced. He had 25 games last season where he got close to a starter's minutes of 24 mpg or more. In those games he averaged 9.1 ppg on 54% shooting, 8.5 rpg, 2.2 bpg and 1.2 apg. Keep in mind that he did this with very little playing time previous to this. With regular playing time, he can easily be a double double player night in and night out.
Perk is a tough player in the mold of the centers of years ago. He is an intimidator. His motto is "No layups" and he does a good job of enforcing it. Even against Shaq, he was able to hold his own under the basket. It is a mystery to me as well as to most Celtics fans why this kid has been kept on the bench while playing time has gone to Raef and Blount.
Pierce may have gotten the big contract... Green may be an all star waiting to happen and may win the Slam Dunk contest this year... Al may be the player whose potential everyone is talking about... Rondo and Telfair may lead the fast break... but in my opinion, Perk is the key to our making the playoffs and to the Celtics becoming a contender once again. "No Layups."
I do think Perkins will be one of the keys that determine how far we go as a team, on our quest for a championship.
You mention the dominating big men of past NBA champions, and its obvious that a dominant big man is crucial towards achieving the ultimate goal. And its not a dominant scoring big man that really makes the difference, but a dominant defensive big man who can devour rebounds and block shots. They are the ones who really puts a team over the hump.
Please don't shoot me for saying this, FL ;D, but I just don't get the impression that Perkins will be a dominant defensive big man. A very solid one yes, and its very possible that we can win a title with a very solid big man instead of a dominanting one. But of course, the chances of winning a title is a lot greater if we have a dominant big man. I'm willing to roll the dice with Perkins, but if we can acquire a better big man than Perkins, I'm all for it.
I totally agree that Perkins is such a good example in the way he takes care of his body, in the way he trains, in his work ethics, in his demeanor on the court, etc. I hope these qualities rub off on Big Al (as it seems to have this summer) as well as our other young big men.