Kevin Martin’s decision to sign with the Minnesota Timberwolves yesterday was not a surprising one.
Martin will be making $7 million per year in Minnesota, a salary the Thunder could not come close to matching.
Martin came over in the James Harden trade and essentially played the same role Harden did in his one year at OKC, sixth man scoring option off the bench. Martin averaged 14 points per game and shot 42.6 percent from the three-point line.
The Thunder will look to replace Martin’s output next season, and do so potentially without adding anyone else to the roster, although there have been some rumors about OKC possibly targeting Dorell Wright or Carlos Delfino.
Had Russell Westbrook not gotten injured last year in the playoffs, the Thunder’s playoff rotation would’ve been: Westbrook, Thabo, Durant, Ibaka, Perkins, Martin, Collison, Fisher and Jackson.
That’s nine players. With Fisher and Martin not coming back, the Thunder will have to find two players to add to the rotation.
Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones seem the most likely to step up in Martin’s absence. Lamb, especially, since he plays the same position and looks to have the potential to score in the NBA while playing a similar role to what Martin did last year.
Lamb averaged 21.0 points per game in the D-League this past season for the Tulsa 66ers. He can really shoot it from three and showed a nice midrange game as well. At 6-foot-5, he is really long and athletic enough to finish around the rim, too.
Lamb will lack the veteran savvy that Martin possessed. Martin was one of the best in the league at drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line. Martin’s did see a noticeable dip in production against the elite teams in the NBA and often appeared to disappear in big games.
Lamb is no guarantee to be a big game player, but the point is that what the Thunder will need to replace in Martin isn’t exactly the 14 points he averaged per season, it’s less when you look at what he gave OKC against the best teams in the league.
Lamb may be able to average double-digits off the bench next season. Someone else who should be able to score more than he did this past season is Reggie Jackson.
Jackson had a semi-breakout time in the playoffs, starting in the place of Westbrook. He only averaged 5.3 points per game in the regular season but increased that to 13.9 per game in the playoffs. He is improving in the pick-and-roll and getting pretty good at finishing at the rim. He’s got some work to do on his jumper but the jump he made from his rookie season to year two, has to have Thunder fans feeling good he can do the same from year two to year three.
More Lamb and more Jackson might come close to replacing the output of Martin. If we also see Westbrook, Durant and Ibaka improve, which they have done every year since they have been in the NBA, then Martin’s absence may not result in much of a drop in winning percentage.
More importantly, Martin won’t be missed as much in the playoffs. Martin was never going to be a reliable third-scoring option deep in the playoffs. OKC moving on and focusing on the development of Jackson, Lamb and Ibaka into that third weapon is for the better.
There will be some growing pains not having Martin. But the Thunder have enough talent to make up for not having him. It will just be a matter of whether or not they are able to figure out how to do so.