The biggest piece the Oklahoma City Thunder received when trading James Harden to the Houston Rockets was Kevin Martin.
Martin came to the Thunder as a former 20-plus point per game scorer to replace Harden in the sixth man role.
So far, Martin has done a pretty solid job averaging 15.4 points per game off the bench and shooting 45.0 percent from three and league-leading 92.7 percent from the free throw line.
But there have been signs of weakness from Martin too. He is a very one-dimensional player who does nothing but score for the Thunder. He rarely rebounds or assists and is a very poor defender.
Martin is also in the final year of his contract making $12.4 million this season meaning that he has good trade value. If the Thunder are to make a deal at the trade deadline this year for a big piece, Martin would almost certainly be involved.
As of right now, the Thunder have said they are not interested in making a trade this season. By the deadline which is Feb. 21, that could all change.
The Thunder are looked at as a possible suitor for trade candidates such as Anderson Varejao, Josh Smith and even DeMarcus Cousins. All of these potential deals are fairly unlikely at the moment but may be less so as the deadline approaches.
The biggest thing the Thunder need to analyze is if they are going to be able to keep Martin past this season. Martin has come out and said that he loves Oklahoma City and would be willing to take less money to stay there but we’ve heard that before and all know how that can turn out.
Martin would have to take about a 50 percent pay cut to stay in OKC and with a young talent like Jeremy Lamb waiting in the wings as the next backup 2-3 for the Thunder, OKC may rather let Martin go.
The Thunder wouldn’t want to let Martin leave for nothing as he is still just 29 years old and has some good years left in him. The only way it seems then to get any value for Martin would be to trade him next month.
Martin has fit in pretty well with the Thunder this season. He has been one of the elite spot-up shooters in the NBA and he doesn’t need to take the ball from Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook to be effective. The Thunder have the most efficient offense in the NBA this season and Martin has a lot to do with that.
But to reach a true championship level, it’s the defense of the Thunder that needs to improve. Before winning a title, OKC really needs to become a consistent, top five defense in this league. Otherwise, getting past Miami in the Finals or even San Antonio again will be extremely tough.
Martin hasn’t helped the Thunder defense this year and even though he has improved defensively individually, is still a liability most of the time. That’s why dealing him and landing a Varejao or Josh Smith would be a great move for the Thunder.
The Thunder might take a hit offensively if they end up trading Martin, but if they receive a better defender in return, it would probably be worth it in the end.
For now, don’t expect the Thunder to engage in any trade talks publicly. But as that deadline approaches and teams start reaching out to OKC, Martin’s name will come up more often than not. If the Thunder have any kind of hiccup between now and then, don’t be surprised if GM Sam Presti shakes up the team again.