No doubt about it, Kevin Martin has fit in quite well with the Thunder. He’s replaced virtually all the production Oklahoma City lost in trading James Harden and has established himself as a legit Sixth Man of the Year candidate.
His ability to score in rhythm, on limited shots and play alongside Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant has been incredibly impressive. Especially when you consider the Thunder essentially have worked Martin in on the fly. I think that’s an incredible credit to Martin, Westbrook and Durant that they’ve had an extremely open mind to learning how to play together. There have been some rough patches, some nights where Martin’s been uninvolved, but for the most part, it’s been a very successful marriage.
I’ve said it before, but in a lot of ways, Martin appears to fit better with Westbrook and Durant than James Harden ever did. It might be somewhat coincidental, but the Thunder space the floor extremely well now and assist on a lot more baskets. OKC was one of the most isolation heavy teams in the league last season, ranking dead last in assists. This year, they’re top 11th, averaging 22.1 a game, up from 18.5 in 2011-12. (It needs to be noted that it’s not like OKC’s offense was bad last year though. The Thunder still finished third in offensive efficiency. This year, they’re first, up almost three points per 100 possessions.)
Martin’s always been one of the best pure scorers in basketball, but now it seems he getting some of the recognition he’s deserved in the past because he’s doing it on a good team. His unselfishness has impacted the team in a lot of positive ways. Martin is the kind of player that doesn’t really approach the game as you-vs-me, but as us-vs-them. I think that idea of giving up a good shot for a great shot has rubbed off on Westbrook and Durant some. Martin trusts his teammates and I think they’re trusting him back.
Anyway, the point of this post: Martin told HoopsWorld that he wants to stay with the Thunder for longer than just this season. Not really big news, because what else is going to say, but he said it, so here we are.
“Oh yeah,” Martin said when asked if wants to stay in Oklahoma City long-term. “I get that question a lot since it’s a contract year. There are going to be teams interested over the summer, but I’m so happy right now and being with these guys has given me an extra pep in my step. It’s just fun being here. It’s a great organization and great guys. I’m happy right now.”
Like Martin said, his deal is up after this season. He’s 29 and making about $12.5 million a year this season. If he truly wants to stay in OKC past this year, that number’s obviously got to come down some. And I’d expect it would because Martin is absolutely loving his time with the Thunder. A source close to him told me this is as fun as he’s ever had as a professional player. He’s done the whole alpha dog scoring thing. Martin’s mindset is to win now. He’s been in the league eight years and wants to accomplish something before his career is over.
It’s still unknown if the Thunder feel the same way though, at least enough to commit to him financially. Obviously Martin has been an exceptional addition and replacement for Harden. His importance is clear, as evidenced by the struggles OKC’s bench had against the Wolves on Thursday. But the Thunder still have future financial concerns. Per Sham Sports, OKC has about $67 million on the books already for next season, and $66 million for the season after that.
While the Thunder proved in the Harden negotiations they were willing to break into tax territory, the question is if they were just willing to make that exception for Harden. Getting Martin for something in the two-year, $17 million range sounds reasonable to me, but that would put OKC right on the tax fringe.
I think a lot of this will be determined by how Martin performs for OKC in the postseason. And some of it will be determined what happens with that Toronto pick OKC owns, as well as Jeremy Lamb’s development. There’s also the option of letting Martin walk after the season and using that money to target another free agent guard like say, J.J. Redick or O.J. Mayo or Nick Young (just kidding) or even Manu Ginobili.
Point is, there are options for OKC and while the team is thrilled with Martin, it’s no lock. There’s a lot of time and a lot of big games to go. Right now, for both Martin and the Thunder, the focus is on this season and this season only. Because things could be vastly changed in the offseason depending on how things play out. No real reason to get too far ahead of ourselves yet.