Currently second in the West, the Thunder reportedly explored a trade that would send center Kendrick Perkins to the Phoenix Suns for Marcin Gortat, according to the Arizona Republic. The deal would also include Oklahoma City rookie Jeremy Lamb and a first round pick, and Phoenix’s P.J. Tucker.
Oklahoma City, like the Los Angeles Clippers chasing Boston’s Kevin Garnett, may be looking toward playoff matchups with this deal.
Gortat also gives the Thunder a venerable post prescence, and lets offensively-limited center Serge Ibaka focus on rebounding and defense. Oklahoma City is currently 11th in the league in field goals made within five feet, which is well behind playoff teams in Denver, the Clippers, and San Antonio.
Gortat, a five-year veteran from Poland, is tenth among centers in rebounding this year, and 13th in points with 11.3 per game. Those numbers are down from his breakout season in 2011-12, when Gortat averaged 15.4 points and 10 rebounds per contest, but its far better production than Perkins.
Used primarily as a post defender, Perkins is averaging 4.6 points and 5.9 rebounds and started all 53 games for the Thunder this season. It would be the second trade for Perkins in three seasons, after the Boston Celtics moved him in 2011.
It would be unusual for the 18-36 Suns, known to be allergic to any luxury taxes, to take on the additional two years and $17 million left on Perkins contract. Though Phoenix would still have more than $10 million in salary cap space, and Perkins would certainly improve their 22nd ranked defense.
Oklahoma City could have a steal on its hands. Guard Kevin Martin and his $12 million comes off of the Thunder’s books at the end of this season, meaning they can easily absorb the $7.7 million owed to Gortat next year.
The Thunder could also be preparing for a rematch with the Miami Heat in the Finals. A frontline of Gortat, Ibaka, and forward Kevin Durant could dominate Miami and its league worst 39 rebounds per game.