How much of James Harden can Kevin Martin replace for OKC Thunder?

Thomas Campbell-US Presswire

The Oklahoma City Thunder surprised a lot of people last week trading James Harden to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb.

Losing Harden will certainly hurt the Thunder in a lot of places but the additions of Martin and Lamb as well as Eric Maynor and Perry Jones III could lessen the blow.

Harden gave the Thunder 16.8 points in 31.4 minutes per game last year. He was also one of the most efficient scorers in the league and lethal pick-and-roll players. That’s not easy to replace and the Thunder won’t replace it perfectly, but they could come close.

Martin is very similar to Harden in a lot of ways. He is an efficient scorer who can get to the free throw line a lot. Harden had a 66.0 true shooting percentage last year while Martin’s was 55.4. Martin has had many seasons of 60-plus true shooting percentages though.

Harden averaged 6.8 free throw attempts per 36 minutes last season while Martin averaged 5.1. That was very low for Martin who averaged 9.3 the season before but due to head coach Kevin McHale taking the ball out of his hands in the pick-and-roll last season.

Harden was 10th in the league last season scoring 1.1 points per possession. Martin was pretty good ranking 82nd in the league scoring 0.97 PPP. Harden was 7th in the league on isolation plays scoring 1.03 PPP. Martin was 18th scoring 0.94 PPP. In the pick-and-roll, they were both tied for 9th in the league scoring 0.99 PPP, although 33 percent of Harden’s offense came in the pick-and-roll while just 12.3 percent for Martin.

Remember that last season was a down year for Martin. He was featured less in the offense while still on a bad team. What player is going to still perform in that setting? The season before when he averaged 23.5 points per game he was 26th in the league scoring 1.07 PPP, 8th in the league on isolation plays scoring 1.04 PPP and he shot 41.7 percent on spot-up 3-point shots.

Martin is overjoyed to be in OKC now. He has been to the playoffs just once in his career so far and now at the age of 29, says he’s ready to do whatever it takes to win and help this team.

Martin isn’t coming to OKC to do exactly what Harden did either. He won’t be asked to be the playmaker that Harden was last year since Maynor will be back from injury and can handle that responsibility. Martin may be a slight downgrade as a defender and rebounder but Harden wasn’t great at either and the other Thunder players should be capable of helping with that too.

There’s also the point that Martin/Maynor may not be a huge downgrade from what Harden did last year but what about what Harden would have done this year? Harden just turned 23 and his future looks very bright so we would have expected to improve even more this season. But at what cost?

If Harden started to shoot a little more so he could have a better shot at making All-Star teams and ensure a max contract down the road, would that have meant less production from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook? That could have been the dynamic had Sam Presti decided to keep Harden for one more season without signing him to an extension.

Martin is an upgrade in that respect. Harden talked a lot about sacrificing but in the end, he made a decision that was best for him. Martin is going to sacrifice whatever it takes for this team. In that respect, the Thunder may be gaining something they wouldn’t have had in Harden.

Topics: James Harden, Kevin Martin, Oklahoma City Thunder

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