The Oklahoma City Thunder are a different team this year than the last. When they traded James Harden to Houston for Kevin Martin, they changed their identity somewhat as well.
Martin has so far been used in just about the same way Harden was last year. He enters the game at the same time, plays just about the same minutes and even is used in some of the same sets.
Martin has been very successful so far this season playing that role. He’s averaging 17.6 points per game and shooting 53.6 percent from 3-point land through 11 games.
Should the Thunder consider starting Martin?
“At this moment, no, I don’t see it changing,” head coach Scott Brooks told The Oklahoman. “You never know. It’s a long season. A lot of things can happen. But we have a pretty good track record with our starters. They understand their role and they do a good job. Kevin, we’re building him to be that guy off the bench that can give us what we need that particular game.”
It seems pretty unlikely that Brooks would shake up the starting lineup barring some sort of injury. He likes the traditional lineup that focuses more on defense and swapping Martin for Thabo Sefolosha would take away from that.
The Thunder have been better with Martin on the floor instead of Sefolosha with the rest of the starters. The offensive rating for the Thunder jumps to 113.8 from 97.4 with Martin in instead of Sefolosha but the defensive rating falls to 107.5 from 95.0.
The Thunder have a history of getting out to slow starts with their starters but this season that hasn’t really been the case. The Thunder have their highest offensive rating in the first quarters this season at 111.1 and the best net rating of any quarter at +19.8. It’s a small sample size for now but is ample reason to not want to change anything up.
The biggest reason why you would want to start Martin would be to give him a higher ceiling of possible minutes and possibly take a little pressure off him in terms of leading the second unit. Right now, he is averaging 29.6 minutes per game this year. If he were to start, he could easily average around 35 per game and have nights where he exceeds 40 if necessary.
The Thunder have already made a change to take some pressure off Martin with the second unit by resting Kevin Durant at the end of the first quarter so that he can play more minutes with the second unit.
At this point in the season, there isn’t a big enough reason to seriously consider starting Martin over Sefolosha. There are plenty of scenarios though that could unfold this year where it would be a good idea. Just not now.