Breaking Down How Kevin Martin Has Filled James Harden Void for OKC Thunder

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Breaking Down How Kevin Martin Has Filled James Harden Void for OKC Thunder
Mark D. Smith-US PRESSWIRE

Prior to the commencement of the 2012-13 NBA regular season, the Oklahoma City Thunder executed one of the most controversial moves of this generation. The Thunder traded star shooting guard James Harden to the Houston Rockets, thus leading to a period of Beardsanity in Houston and the arrival of Kevin Martin in OKC (via ESPN).

So how exactly is Martin filling Harden's void for Oklahoma City? How about a breakdown?

Not only has Martin stepped in to fill Harden's absence, but he is proven to be a better fit in OKC. The Bearded One may be the better all-around player, but there is something to be said about meshing playing styles.

As for the numbers, Martin is posting significantly better percentages across the board. As for those who claim that is by virtue of Harden having a lack of support in Houston, you now know how Martin has felt since 2010.

The tables have turned and Martin is proving that he is one of the game's greatest complementary scorers.

Again, this is not to state that Martin is the better player than Harden. That is a subjective matter and when studied, it becomes clear that Harden is more advanced in areas other than scoring the rock.

The fact of the matter is, this team is a more legitimate title threat with Martin than they were with Harden. Don't believe it? Allow the numbers to talk and the evidence to present itself.

Keep in mind, debaters. A better fit does not mean a better player. It simply means Martin was made for Oklahoma City.

 

Making What He's Taking

Thus far this season, Kevin Martin is averaging 1.24 points per play. For those keeping track, that is the highest mark in the NBA.

Paired with a study of his slash line, it's fair to say that Martin is making what he's taking.

Although we're only 11 games in, Martin has posted spectacular shooting percentages of .487/.536/.947. Considering Martin's career slash line sits at .443/.381/.866, it's fair to assume that those percentages won't drop too significantly.

But why is this happening?

All eight of Kevin Martin's field goals came on catch-and-shoot designs.

 

Catch-and-Shoot

Ryan Feldman of ESPN Stats & Info offers up a beautiful breakdown of the difference between Kevin Martin as a catch-and-shoot artist during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons. The disparity in efficiency is marginal.

In 2012, Martin shot 34.9 percent on catch-and-shoot attempts. In 2013, he's shooting 52.1 percent.

This has led Martin to an average of 1.5 points per catch-and-shoot play, up from the mark of 0.97 from a year ago. As for why this is happening, simply acknowledge the numbers.

Martin attempted 64.2 percent of his shot attempts from at least 16 feet away in 2011-12. That number sits at 64.1 percent in 2012-13.

The only difference is how much defensive pressure Martin sees when attempting these shots. That's what happens when you go from Kyle Lowry and Chandler Parsons to Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.

 

Doesn't Need to Handle

Throughout the duration of Kevin Martin's career, he has been the focal point of opposing defenses. He was the lead scorer in Sacramento and reprised the role in Houston, thus making him the top priority from 2007-08 to 2011-12.

With the Oklahoma City Thunder, however, Martin is the third player you'd think of double-teaming. If Serge Ibaka continues his offensive consistency, he may even drop to fourth.

As a result of this status, Martin does not need to handle the basketball. He simply needs to work his way into openings so his teammates can find him.

Which brings us to the major difference between Martin and James Harden.

Harden is the type of player who commands touches and plays with a sense of star entitlement. Such has been evident since the start of his career, as Harden almost always creates the offensive play when in the game.

Martin, meanwhile, is fine moving without the basketball. Chances are he'll only touch the rock when he's ready to put up a shot.

Such has led to Martin's spectacular start this season with an average of 17.6 points per game and the previously alluded to percentages of .487/.536/.947.

Kevin Martin can call his own number. He is best when playing a complementary role.

 

Playing Within Himself

Ryan Feldman's statistical breakdown of Kevin Martin's 2012-13 performances was brilliantly done. What no statistic can tell you, however, is how well Martin has done the most important thing that could be asked of him. He hasn't attempted plays that he is not capable of making.

During the 2006-07 season, Martin averaged 20.2 points per game on 47.3 percent shooting with the Sacramento Kings. Although he led the team in scoring, the true focus of opposing defenses was containing Ron Artest and Mike Bibby.

Both were proven scorers, while Martin had never previously averaged more than 10.8 points. All he had to do was score when granted the opportunity.

Upon Artest and Bibby's departure, however, Martin was tasked with creating offense for himself every time down the floor. The same can be said about his time in Houston, where he began forcing shots to overcome double-teams and played in a style that did not reflect his abilities.

With Oklahoma City, consider it to be 2006-07 all over again. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant will command attention, as they are two of the Top 10 scorers in the NBA.

Such enables Martin to score at virtual will. The key here is, he is only attempting to score as his talents would enable him.

A logical approach by one of the game's top shooters. An approach that has allowed Martin to fill James Harden's void to perfection.

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