The Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Martin may not be the biggest name heading into free agency this summer, but in order for the Thunder to win a title the team needs to make bringing back Martin a priority.
Dwight Howard and Chris Paul are obviously the sexiest names on the market, but don’t expect either to do a Pope Benedict XVI and bolt from their current positions. Even as we delve lower into the list of available free agents, Kevin Martin will find himself in what will be considered the third or fourth tier of available players- below the likes of Andrew Bynum, Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings, Utah Jazz bigs Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, and even below the likes of David West, Tyreke Evans and probably Nikola Pekovic.
Forget about the other two guards available- Evans, O.J. Mayo, Monta Ellis, Andre Iguodala and Manu Ginobili– the key to Oklahoma’s success going forward will be Kevin Martin remaining with the team.
At one point Martin had the third-lowest defensive win-share percentage of all-time, an unbelievable stat, with 83% of his win-share being accounted for on offense. That came at a time (2009) when shooting guard was arguably the strongest position in the league. However, forget the defensive side of the game and instead pay attention to Kevin Martin’s value alongside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Obviously, a shooter of Kevin Martin’s caliber spaces the floor dramatically, but it also means opposing defenses cannot readily throw a second, and never a third, defender at elite scorers in Durant and Westbrook.
James Harden was so valuable to the Thunder because of his ability to be a deadly scorer from three specific areas- inside the key (where he shoots and makes a ridiculous number of baskets) and from outside- Harden is lights out from three anywhere along the entire left side or from the right corner.
Martin doesn’t give you anywhere near the penetration that Harden does, but he can be relied upon for points from a number of spots, including mid-range positions Harden wasn’t known for, extending up from the left baseline and then across to the opposite elbow.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are destined for a long playoff run this season and that will only increase Martin’s stock heading into free agency. The Thunder realized replacing Harden’s specific skill set was never going to be an easy task, but the acquisition of Martin will do wonder for the club as they look for their fist title of the Durant era.
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