When the Oklahoma City Thunder traded James Harden to the Houston Rockets, some instantly believed that it would hinder their era of title contention (via ESPN). The truth of the matter is, Harden was poised to become a free agent and lacked the long-term security that both sides desired.
Fortunately for the Thunder, in trading Harden they received shooting guard Kevin Martin. In turn, they have done the unthinkable by becoming a better team.
In Martin's OKC debut, the eight-year veteran posted 15 points, five assists, two rebounds and one steal. He also connected on three 3-point field goals, leading the Thunder to a near comeback victory over the San Antonio Spurs.
Although the Thunder eventually fell short, Martin provided the team with prime examples of how he can transform Kevin Durant into an MVP playmaker.
With all of this being said, Martin is not the caliber individual that James Harden has proven to be. What he is, however, is a greater fit within Oklahoma City's system.
With Martin's scoring versatility, expect the Thunder's stars to shine even brighter than ever before.
Working Off of the Ball
James Harden is a phenomenal player who played a key role in the Oklahoma City Thunder's consecutive Western Conference Finals appearances. He's also the type of star player who demands touches and thrives in creating his own shot.
Although valuable, this is not the type of weapon that complements a star playmaker. Instead, Harden is the type of weapon that is waiting to take over a game as his world class talents would enable him to.
Although impressive, Harden's individual brilliance is not going to help Durant's campaign for MVP.
Kevin Martin, meanwhile, is outstanding at working off of the ball. Although he is capable of creating his own shot, Martin is one of the most underrated motion scorers in the game.
He will utilize screens to create openings and his quickness to curl for open looks.
What this creates are opportunities for Kevin Durant to dictate the pace of the offense. Although Harden is stellar in caliber, he has the same star mentality that Durant and Russell Westbrook possess.
In turn, Harden was just as inclined to scrap a set play and attack the basket to pick up two points. Now, Durant has a player who will avoid the superstar entitlement.
For all of his borderline elite skills, there is one very important factor in Kevin Martin's game that sets him apart. When the team is flowing, Martin is all for letting the hot hand shoot.
Even if it isn't his hand.
Despite putting up at least 20 points per game in five separate seasons, Martin has never averaged more than 15.9 shots per game. This displays the level of efficiency he has in scoring the rock, as well as his unselfish tendencies.
Such will create scenarios in which Kevin Durant can feel comfortable deferring to Martin, regardless of how much playing time he'd previously received. Such a ready commodity is certainly welcome in the Thunder's young offensive attack.
Keep in mind, the proper role players are the backbone of an NBA championship.
Kevin Martin is known as one of the better scorers at the shooting guard position. What makes him so dangerous, however, is the rare combination that some of the top shooters in the NBA do not possess.
Both a mid-range and long-range game.
More times than not, a sharpshooter will drain their 3-pointers but struggle from inside the arc. Although there is no reasonable explanation for these struggles, it is a common occurrence which leaves teams in a position in which they cannot play their shooters major minutes.
Fortunately for the Thunder, Kevin Martin consistently knocks down his shots anywhere from 15 feet and beyond.
This will enable Durant to not only spread the floor with his own shooting, but facilitate via his drive-and-dish tendencies. Although Russell Westbrook has one of the most beautiful shooting forms you'll ever see, his shots do not fall as consistently as one would hope.
Martin, meanwhile, provides the perfect catch-and-shoot complement to Kevin Durant's all-around scoring. He has a quick, albeit awkward, release that is as accurate as any.
His penchant to keep a defender off-balance with a deceptive shot fake also enables Martin to get to the line more than his slim build would suggest.
Most important of all, Westbrook is there to pick up Martin's defensive slack. This enables Martin to focus on the offensive end and put up big scoring numbers with Kevin Durant facilitating the way.
Westbrook may be the point guard, but Durant's scoring and assist numbers hinge directly upon Martin's ability to draw attention at the 2. Something his jump shooting will enable him to do.