The Oklahoma City Thunder will get their first look playing against Kevin Martin tonight on the road vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Martin averaged 14.0 points per game for the Thunder last season while shooting 42.6 percent from behind the three-point line.
With Russell Westbrook missing the first few weeks of the season, the Thunder suddenly appear to be somewhat of a one-man show, with two glaring holes of production that need to be replaced from a year ago.
While Westbrook will return soon, the Thunder are relying on replacing Martin by committee. This is something that some don’t think will be achievable.
I’ve written before that I don’t think the Thunder will ultimately miss Martin that much. It was so clear he was going to be a no-show in the playoffs against tougher defense and that’s exactly what happened last season. OKC is better off developing some of its young players, who are better athletes and could blossom into guys who can compete at a playoff level, instead of relying on gimmicks like Martin.
The Thunder are missing Martin right now though, and while that might not seem very important, a win is a win and in a tight Western Conference, the Thunder do want to finish as high in the standings as possible.
In the season-opener, Kevin Durant scored 42 points while only two others reached double figure scoring (Ibaka and Jackson). If Martin were still around, the Thunder definitely could be relying on him at this point in the season to pick up some of that scoring slack.
OKC only totaled nine assists vs. Utah as well. While Martin has never been someone to rack up the assists, his spot-up shooting ability helps overall to space the floor and make for better flow offensively. Outside shooting is another one of the big concerns for the Thunder heading into this season.
The Thunder won 60 regular season games last year, and Martin was a big part of that. I’m not sure OKC will have as good of a chance to repeat that many wins this season, and Martin’s absence is a big reason why.
I still stand by what I wrote earlier this summer. Missing Martin will hurt the regular season, but in the long run help the Thunder become a team that will be better suited for the playoffs. Maybe Lamb will struggle to shoot consistently all season, but he has the physical tools to be a much better defender than Martin, and more versatile scorer. No Martin will give Jackson more opportunities to grow as well, and Adams and Jones.
The Thunder are back to a stage where they will experience growing pains. But that’s a good thing. Martin may very well torch the Thunder tonight and make them think twice about not pushing harder to keep him. But I guarantee you one thing, no one will be worrying too much about Martin come playoff time.