The Oklahoma City Thunder traded last year’s Sixth Man of the Year Award winner this past weekend. But they may have received this year’s winner in return.
Kevin Martin will not be able to replace James Harden perfectly but he is still one of the few players with a legitimate shot to win the same award Harden did last season.
When Harden won the award last year, it was a run away. There was really no competition at all and not just because no one else had a good year coming off the bench, but that Harden was simply that good.
Harden averaged 16.8 points per game with a 66.0 true shooting percentage. He also averaged 3.7 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game.
Martin will have a hard time matching Harden’s all-around numbers but he could come close in terms of scoring. Martin averaged 17.1 points per game last season and averaged slightly more points per 36 minutes than Harden did. It was a down year for Martin though as he had a sort of fallout with head coach Kevin McHale. He shot just 41.3 percent from the field and 34.7 percent from three.
If one thing is for sure this year, it’s that Martin will be rejuvenated, playing with a true title contender for this first time in his career. At 29 years old, Martin appreciates this opportunity and plans to make the most of it, knowing it might just be for one season. He’s mature enough to make this work and young enough that there’s still a lot of great basketball left in his tank.
Winning the Sixth Man of the Year Award is not out of the question at all for Martin. In fact, he should already be considered one of the frontrunners. Past winners of the Sixth Man of the Year Award almost always are heavily focused on scoring. That is generally the idea of your Sixth Man, to bring scoring punch of the bench. Martin is perfect for this and this role may actually suit him better than when he was the first and second scoring options in the past.
Martin will now have the benefit of playing a majority of his minutes against opposing benches, something that wasn’t always the case for him earlier in his career. The Thunder already have experienced, very capable role players that should help bring Martin along rather quickly in their offense. Eric Maynor is a very nice point guard to put alongside Martin and don’t be surprised if Nick Collison develops chemistry reminiscent of what he had with Harden with Martin too.
Martin’s competition for the Sixth Man of the Year Award is essentially the same cast that tried to challenge Harden for the award last year. Lou Williams is will be big competition as he joins a new team in the Atlanta Hawks. J.R. Smith may make a strong push for the award this year as well as veterans Jason Terry and Manu Ginobili.
Other than maybe Williams and Ginobili, Martin will be given the most opportunity to produce within his offense. Martin in his prime a few years back was also a better scorer than any of these guys. And again, Martin isn’t exactly passed his prime yet.
So what will Martin need to do to win the award? If he’s getting close to 30 minutes per game, averaged 16-18 points per game is not out of the question for him. Martin is one of those scorers in the league that will always find a way to get buckets and get his shot. He’s been one of the most efficient scorers in the past and if he can return to that form at least a little, the award will be his.
Thunder fans witnessed last night the player they are losing this season as Harden put on a fantastic show in his Rockets debut vs. the Pistons. Martin won’t be that guy but he could be something close to what Harden was last year. And that might be good enough for back-to-back Sixth Man of the Year Award winners in OKC.