The Oklahoma City Thunder are likely about to lock up the top seed in the Western Conference for the NBA Playoffs, fending off the San Antonio Spurs. However, there have been some questions about the Thunder all season, not because of their obviously great core group of players, but because they no longer have James Harden.
People often underestimate how valuable Harden was to Oklahoma City last season. Like this year, the Thunder relied on Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook as their primary guys to get things done last season. However, whenever those two guys weren’t feeling it or were having an off night, Harden had the ability to carry the team. He was the third amigo on the team, but was very close to being their equal.
When the Thunder traded him, though, they got Kevin Martin in return to try and replace his offensive output. Martin has done an admirable job for the season in doing that. In 27.7 minutes per game he’s averaged 14 points, 1.4 assists and 2.3 rebounds per game while shooting 45 percent from the field and 42.6 percent from three. Though he’s been solid, he hasn’t consistently been the threat that was Harden.
However, Martin has taken to looking like a game-changer over the past couple of weeks. In the five games that he has played in the month of April, Martin has played 23.6 minutes per game and has averaged 10.8 points, 1.4 assists and 2.2 rebounds per game. His minutes and numbers have slipped slightly, but the important part of his recent performance is that he has been shooting 48.7 percent from the floor and 52.9 percent from beyond the arc over this month.
Martin has been shooting and playing like a player that can come off the bench in the playoffs and can absolutely take over a game. When his role is increased in the postseason, which it’s likely to be, he needs to come in and play with the confidence and the efficiency that he has displayed in April. If he does this, he may not do all of the things that Harden did for OKC, but he will definitely do the job offensively for his team.