To release or to sign Kevin Martin seems to be the biggest free agency issue the Oklahoma City Thunder have to handle in this off-season, as the shooter who was brought in to replace James Harden disappointed mostly in the postseason that ended a lot earlier than anyone expected from last season’s NBA finalists.
It had a lot to do with the team losing one of its two stars, as Russell Westbrook bowed down from the stage after tearing his meniscus. The Thunder had enough to get by the Houston Rockets, but were good enough to only win one game in the conference semifinals against the Memphis Grizzlies, as Kevin Durant simply crumbled under the pressure, not getting enough help from players around him.
Martin was on the final season of a deal that was paying him $12.4 million, but he’s not likely to see that kind of money from the Thunder (or anyone else in the league for that matter) after averaging 14 points off the bench during the regular season (no complaints there) but not being able to elevate his game and scoring during the playoffs, averaging the same 14 points against Memphis and Houston.
Martin, 30, can probably do a little bit more with starer-like minutes, but there aren’t a lot of teams who will give him that kind of role anymore, and especially not the money he was making since 2008 (averaging $10 million a season). The Thunder are going to be $7 million under the tax threshold in 2013-2014, which means if they want to make anymore minor additions to the team, and they probably do, they won’t be able to afford giving Martin more than $5 million.
Can he get more than that by trying the market? Probably. Can the Thunder get someone cheaper who can bring in the same amount of points? Probably not, but they also can be comforted by the fact that their trades in recent seasons have yielded an impressive bounty, getting four first round picks in the next two drafts, which means that filling the void of a bench scorer can come in a cheaper form if they get luck in the draft.
Kevin Martin was something close to a star in the NBA about three years ago, for a very short while. He’s no longer that good, and he isn’t going to get any better. If the Thunder land gold in the draft with a late steal of a capable scorer or even two, they might be able to not try and re-sign him at all, and address other needs through free agency.