Well the season is over for last season’s Western Conference Champions and it is a week or two earlier than they would have hoped. After having the best record in the West this season and securing the #1 seed and home court advantage, the Thunder were well placed for an NBA Finals return. However, an injury to All Star point guard Russell Westbrook allowed a very tough defensive-minded Memphis team to swarm Kevin Durant and ultimately seal OKC’s fate.
The season started with the analysis of the James Harden trade and now it concludes with a similar notion. The Thunder were admirably assisted by Kevin Martin
throughout the regular season, but just like the man he replaced (James Harden), Kmart came up short in the post-season. With the NBA Draft lottery upon us, this trade is back in the spotlight as the Thunder look to gain the late lottery draft pick from Toronto
to them along with Martin from Houston.
So this leaves a gigantic question to be asked by the organisation front office, stakeholders, staff and fans – should the Oklahoma City Thunder re-sign Kevin Martin. Let’s have a look.
Kevin Martin’s arrival in OKC meant that the Thunder had another scoring option. He was efficient and effective and didn’t need the ball in his hands a lot or a heap of shots to be happy. He filled a role very well, and the Thunder were rolling with this new line-up. Other players were also able to develop in the absence of Harden and his ball dominating ways (Reggie Jackson and Serge Ibaka most noticeably) so it seemed to be a win-win for everyone involved. In fact
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had it not been for the knee injury to Westbrook and we may very well be singing a different tune right now (perhaps how much to re-sign Kmart for!) – but it did happen, the Thunder bombed and now we have to analyse why.
The entire reason for moving Harden on, was to limit the luxury tax paid by the franchise and to keep the small market team competitive for a number of seasons, building around Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, with a host of rookies and role players they had drafted and / or pieced together. This means that signing players will be at a premium and therefore the Thunder will not spend too much money
on players that don’t directly benefit them and make them contenders. So, can we expect to see the #23 back in OKC next season?
There are a number of shooting guards that are to be free agents at the completion of this season – Kevin Martin isn’t the only one – however, there doesn’t appear to be a ready-made fit at the price OKC would be willing to pay. The names that jump out are players like JR Smith (New York Knicks) and OJ Mayo (Dallas Mavericks). Could the Thunder make a play at these guys who are currently earning less than $5mill per year? They are certainly the scoring / shooting threat that OKC would love to have coming off the bench and are both adept at handling the ball if required and creating their own shot.
KMart would no doubt be willing to take a pay cut to stay on a contender. He is in the twilight of his career and this is really his best chance at playing a major role on a team that has the talent to win it all. He bought into the system when he got there and improved his defence. He also has a good chemistry with Nick Collison – but is that enough to save his job? And if he does in fact want to stay, how much is he going to ask for (considering he was paid $12.5mil this season)?
The Thunder have a sensational young guard that they feel they can transform into the Harden role, and his name is Jeremy Lamb. He won’t be ready to take the mantle for a season or two
yet, but Martin could play a wonderful mentoring role for him if re-signed. The same could be said for OJ Mayo as well who was a highly touted pick and has had to come to terms with different roles on different teams. (JR Smith is not and would never be a mentor to anyone – but that’s another issue!)
Now that you have read a fair
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whack of info, I would like to hear your thoughts. I personally believe that JR Smith will re-sign with the New York Knicks, Tony Allen will stay with the Grizz (plus OKC already have 1 defensive minded shooting guard, they can ill-afford another), Kyle Korver wants to stay in ATL and they want him back, and Manu isn’t coming to a foe. So if they don’t re-sign Martin, what are they going to do? I believe that Martin comes back with quite a discount after disappearing in the playoffs and with Russell Westbrook back healthy and they young stars from OKC starting to shine, they may make that return to the NBA Finals, albeit a year later than expected.