He’s not the reigning Sixth Man of the Year. Or even the
reigning Player of the Week. Don’t ask Kevin Martin to grow that beard.
Just ask him to score. That he can do.
“He’s a terrific scorer,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “He
scores in many ways. He’s a 3-point shooter. He’s a mover. He gets to the free
Martin arrived in Oklahoma City on the eve of the regular season in a deal that
rocked the NBA. Franchise cornerstone James Harden was hastily shipped to
Houston along with Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward. The Thunder
received Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first-round draft choices and a second-round
The defending Western Conference champs were immediately transformed and, in
the minds of many, downgraded. Harden didn’t help that perception by instantly
blasting off. All the freshly-minted Rocket did was pace the league in scoring
through the first week.
Martin, if you haven’t noticed, hasn’t been too shabby stepping into the sixth
man role that Harden perfected over the previous three years. Through the first
five Thunder games, Martin has fit right in, playing off Kevin Durant and
Russell Westbrook, and looking more comfortable with each passing minute.
“They’re making it easy for me,” Martin said. “Coach Brooks and
his staff just gave me a playbook and told me to study it and the guys are
finding me in my spots.”
Martin is averaging 18.4 points, shooting better than 50 percent from the floor
and 60 percent from beyond the arc. Harden never averaged more than 16.8 points
while in OKC.
Five games isn’t anything close to a representative sample. It is, though, an
early indication that Martin can still be a dangerous offensive option. He
scored 28 in only his third game with the Thunder, hitting 8-of-11 shots,
including 6 of 8 from deep.
“K-Mart is a guy that doesn’t need the ball for him to score,” Durant
said after Martin’s season high (for now) Sunday. “He was getting
everything in the flow of the offense.”
Not that Martin has a complete understanding of a Thunder system predicated on
defense. He didn’t have the luxury of going through training camp with OKC, and
his previous stops – Houston and Sacramento – weren’t known for stops.
Brooks and Martin’s new teammates are trying to make the transition as seamless
as possible for him. Brooks does have a history with Martin, having been an
assistant with the Kings early in Martin’s career.
“We’ve definitely given him a speedy course of what we do and how we like
to do it,” Brooks said. “We have a good group of guys that are
willing to show him and teach him and expedite that learning curve, but he
knows how to play and he does a lot of good things that we can use and we do
use in our offense.
“Defensively, when you score on a team that hasn’t had a lot of success I
think the natural thing to say is that he’s not a defender, but he’s done
defensive things that we like and he’s only going to get better as the rest of
Make no mistake, Martin isn’t Harden. There’s a reason Harden is averaging 30.3
points through four games. Harden is also more of a distributer and playmaker.
Martin prefers to work off the ball, getting open and flicking that jumper with
a flick of the wrist.
“His shot is not the prettiest looking shot, but it goes in and that’s all
you worry about,” Brooks said.
Martin plays with the second unit early in the game, teaming with Hasheem
Thabeet, Eric Maynor and Nick Collison. In crunch time, though, Martin is on
the floor, illustrating the Harden-like trust he’s already earned.
Martin’s future in Oklahoma City isn’t guaranteed. He’s in the last year of a
contract paying a shade less than $13 million and his next deal surely won’t come
close to that amount, at least not from the Thunder.
Luxury tax apprehension led to Harden’s departure. OKC general manager Sam
Presti hasn’t tipped his hand about Martin’s future with the Thunder, but that
comes as no surprise considering the organization’s M.O.
Martin, 29, isn’t focusing on the long term just yet. He’s finally on a title
contender, filling a familiar role his way.
“We have a great team,” Martin said. “We just want to keep on