Anyone who has been around me for any length of time will know that I love Perk. I have stated many times that I believe that he will have a break out season this year. Some Celtics fans don't believe this and so I have compiled some facts to support my feeling that this will be Perk's break out year.
First, Perk came into the league directly from high school. If he had gone to college, he would just be going into his rookie season this year. Usually, it takes longer for centers to develop an NBA game. We can compare Perk's first four years with the first four years of another center who came into the NBA directly from high school, Jermaine O'Neal.
In his first year, Perk only played in 10 games and averaged only 3.5 minutes per game. That is a total of 35 minutes for the entire season. He averaged 2.2 points, 1.3 rebounds and .2 blocks in those 3.5 minutes. O'Neal got a bit more playing time in that he played in 45 games and averaged 10 minutes per game. He averaged 4.1 points, 2.8 rebounds, and .6 blocks per game. But even though he played only 35 minutes the first season, he used the time to remake his body and get into NBA shape.
In their second seasons, both played in 60 games. Perk averaged 9 minutes per game and O'Neal averaged 13 minutes per game. Perk averaged 2.5 points, 2.9 rebounds, and .6 blocks while O'Neal averaged 4.5 poings, 3.4 rebounds, and 1 block per game.
In their third seasons, Perk finally got more playing time than JO due to O'Neal battling injuries. Perk averaged 19 minutes, 5.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.0 assists, and 1.5 blocks while O'Neal averaged 8.6 minutes, 2.5 points, 2.7 rebounds, .4 assists and .4 blocks.
In their 4th seasons, Perk played in 72 games and was hampered by plantar fasciitis much of the year but he still averaged 21.9 minutes, 4.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1.3 blocks. O'Neal played in 70 games and averaged 12.3 minutes, 3.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, .2 assists, and 2.8 blocks.
Over their first four years, their stats are fairly comparable. In his 5th season, O'Neal jumped to 32.6 minutes per game and averaged 12.9 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and 2.8 blocks per game. I fully expect Perk to make at least that kind of leap this season. Since their careers have been comparable to this point, it follows that Perk will make the same kind of progress in his 5th season. Although, I expect Perk's defensive stats to be higher than his offensive stats simply because that is what this team is going to need from him.
In spite of limited playing time and battling shoulder and foot injuries, Perk has made steady progress in his game. Last off season, he was recovering from shoulder surgery and was unable to practice until training camp. He was unable to work with Clifford Ray in the off season. Then, once his shoulder healed, he developed plantar fasciitis and played in considerable pain much of the season. He had limited mobility because of it. Because of the pain in his foot, he was unable to practice much of the season and only played in the games so wasn't able to work with Clifford Ray even during the season. Perk is healthy now. His foot is fully healed and he is healthy and a healthy Perk has always played very well.
This off season, Perk has the benefit of working with Clifford Ray and now with Tom Thibodeau also. Clifford Ray is the best big man coach in the league and we saw the leap that Big Al made last season after working with Ray in the off season. We also see the play of Dwight Howard as a testament to Ray's coaching. But along with Clifford Ray, Perk is working with Tom Thibodeau who is credited with turning around Yao Ming's game. The Herald said that Perk had just finished a draining workout with Thibodeau. With his work ethic, I can see Perk working out all morning with one coach and with the other in the afternoon. Both of these coaches are known for getting results from the big men they coach and both are working with Perk this off season.
This brings me to another reason I believe that Perk will break out this season and that is his work ethic. No one works harder than this kid does. From the Globe article:
Between now and the start of training camp in six weeks, Kendrick Perkins hopes the Celtics' coaching staff pushes him to extremes. He wants to be run ragged, past the point of exhaustion in offensive and defensive drills. When he joins Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Rajon Rondo in the starting five this season, the 6-foot-10-inch Perkins wants to be in the best shape of his career. "Each day I can come in here and a coach can kill me and make me throw up after my workout, that's what I want," said Perkins, who has dropped 20 pounds and is 10 shy of his desired playing weight of 260. "If you do that all the way through the month of September, everything else is going to be easy."
Anybody who works that hard at his game has got to succeed. Larry Bird always said that he stayed after practice and put in extra work because he didn't want someone else working harder than him who would beat him. I can say with some certainty that there isn't anyone outworking Perk.
Perk has the perfect attitude to be a great basketball player. Again, from that Globe article:
"[Defense] is what gives me playing time," said Perkins. "That's my role. I don't care if I shoot the ball one time. I've got Paul, Ray Allen, and KG on the court with me. If I go the whole game and have zero points and we win, I don't care. Why should I care? That's called selfish. If we're winning, everybody's going to get the same publicity and everything else. That all comes with losing yourself within the team. "I want to win too much to care about anything else. I don't care about my stats. I don't care about how people view me as a basketball player. I just care about getting wins. Anything else is irrelevant to me. I don't care about somebody telling me to shoot the ball or do this more. I'm going to do what my team wants me to do. It's as simple as that."
Perk will do whatever it takes to win. This is the attitude that the Celtics teams had in the olden days when the Celtics were a dynasty. Each player was willing to accept his role and each player was willing to do whatever it took for the team to win. Perk has this old school attitude and by being willing to play team ball and fill a role, he will be successful.
Finally, Perk will be playing alongside Kevin Garnett, who is one of the best big men in the league. Playing with KG would make any player better. He almost even made Blount look like a good player. But with Perk playing with Garnett, he will learn from him and they will back each other up and form a formidable front line.
Experience, health, coaching and a work ethic second to none, attitude, and a future hall of famer to play alongside, all point to Perk having a break out season this year. As I have said before, better get on the Perk bandwagon now because it is going to be very crowded by the end of the year.
(1) Perk didn't play much because he wasn't good enough. Jermaine didn't play because there was major league talent ahead of him
(2) KG made Blount look good because Blount is an offensive player. If you look at the list of defensive centre's he has played with, he has made none of them better. Instead it was they who made KG better. Which is a win for the Celtics but not for Perk breaking out.
I'm not as convinced as you are that Perk's improvement is a done deal, but I agree that he has a lot going for him this year. Injury gone, great coaches, defensive help (KG), and a hard work ethic. I'm really pulling for this guy. Its the guys that really work at it that get it done. Not sure that he'll be a JO though. Liked your post.