Commentary

Experts discuss the Perkins trade

Updated: March 5, 2011, 11:41 AM ET
By Marc Thaler | Special to ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- On the topic of the recent trade involving Kendrick Perkins, an unmistakable green line divides Boston Celtics fans into two camps.

The trade either receives an approving thumbs-up or it's met with a thumbs-down -- and considerable disgust.

The bold decision of Danny Ainge, Celtics president and director of basketball operations, to deal one-fifth of the starting five from the franchise's 17th-title team remains a hot-button topic. An attendee's question during Friday's fifth annual sports analytics conference hosted by MIT's Sloan School of Management proved it.

Why trade Perkins -- part of a multiplayer deal that sent the center and Nate Robinson to Oklahoma City for Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic and a 2012 first-round pick -- when Boston's window to win is now?

No matter the statistical data that's applied, it's clear the decision still has its head-scratching detractors.

"This is a novel question I have not been asked before," said Celtics assistant director of basketball operations Mike Zarren, whose sarcastic response produced quite a collective laugh inside the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

"I'll say this -- the mandate from our owners is clear: 'We want to win championships.' If we're not hanging a banner, it's not been a good year," Zarren said once the room quieted down. "For a bunch of reasons, we love the guys we got. Perk and I showed up the same year. We hate to see him go. But we think we're a better team."

Considered a leader in the field of advanced statistical analysis and how it applies to evaluating talent, Zarren after the conference declined to discuss the role data played in Boston's big trade. Kevin Pritchard, the former general manager of the Portland Trail Blazers and ex-Celtics player, wouldn't speak about the trade in specific terms, either.

He did, however, offer insight into his mindset with regard to reshuffling a team's roster at the trade deadline.

"I don't rush to judge on any trade. You've got to wait and let it play out," Pritchard said. "I think they still have a great opportunity to win now."

Tom Penn, an NBA analyst for ESPN, wasn't tight-lipped.

Penn said Green is a solid acquisition whose length can strengthen the team's perimeter defense. Krstic, he added, helps fill the void left by the departure of Perkins.

Of course, Penn also acknowledged the trade wasn't without risk.

Yes, the Celtics went 33-10 while Perkins completed his recovery from knee reconstruction. But he could rebound and defend, and pose matchup problems for big men like Orlando's Dwight Howard.

"That's high stakes and it takes some courage, which is what good managers [have]," Penn said of the trade. "That's what Danny did here."

Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey -- speaking in an earlier seminar at the conference Friday about the debate over natural ability versus the need to develop through repetition -- said there's no substitute for experience in a defensive system.

Morey's belief holds true relative to the Celtics, known as a defensive-minded team.

"Defense is one of those things that gets better with experience," Morey said. "You start to understand NBA defensive sets, the pick-and-roll."

Perkins is gone. Green and Krstic must get up to speed in a hurry.

The postseason, after all, is fast approaching.

"One of the best things about working for Danny is he doesn't care what people think of him," Zarren said. "He just wants the team to win."

Marc Thaler is a contributor to ESPNBoston.com. His e-mail address is marc.thaler@gmail.com.

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