J.R. Smith of the New York Knicks was named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year this week.
It was a close race where Smith narrowly edged out Jamal Crawford of the Los Angeles Clippers in what was basically a two-man race.
Finishing fourth in the voting was Kevin Martin of the Oklahoma City Thunder, who averaged 14.0 points in 27.7 minutes per game off the bench this season.
Martin of course came to the Thunder right before the start of the regular season as the main piece in the James Harden trade. Martin did a decent job replacing some of what the Thunder lost in Harden but he didn’t do enough.
If Martin had played to his potential, this award should have been his.
What held Martin back?
It felt like it took him awhile to find out where he fit in. At the start of the season, Martin’s production was coming far too much from isolation.
But as the season went on, Martin’s output started to drop and it resulted in less minutes for him. Instead of closing out games, Scott Brooks often went with Thabo Sefolosha or Reggie Jackson because they are better defenders.
The simple fact that it’s even an option to not close out a game with Martin speaks to how far he fell short in what he should have become this season for the Thunder.
Martin has given us glimpses here and there of what he can do. He moves very well without the ball and developed a nice two-man game with Nick Collison in the second unit.
Martin will score on the occasional backdoor cut and he is a good spot-up shooter. When attacking the basket, Martin relies on only his quickness to try and get by his defender. He’ll try a spin move here and there that turns into a fadeaway but that’s about it. Usually, you see Martin looking for the referees to bail him out on a call while he takes a 12-foot runner. They usually don’t.
That’s Martin’s game and instead of trying to find more ways to assert himself this season, he became complacent in his role with the Thunder. OKC was winning so the pressure wasn’t exactly on Martin to try and reinvent himself.
What Martin has become with this Thunder team was not enough. He should have found a way to win the Sixth Man of the Year award, something he was totally capable of doing.
After this first round series against Houston, a poor defensive team, look for Martin’s production to really drop off.
Whether it’s the Clippers or Grizzlies in round two, they’re not going to let Martin get easy looks. It won’t get any easier for Martin in the Western Conference Finals or NBA Finals if the Thunder make it there.
Martin says he is willing to take less money to stay in OKC after this season but it’s the Thunder that will be making the decision on whether they want to keep Martin or not. They’re not going to waste their time after they watch these playoffs.