Can OKC Thunder Afford to Keep Kevin Martin at Durant, Westbrook's Side?

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterMarch 1, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 27:  Kevin Martin #23 of the Oklahoma City Thunder attempts a layup in front of Chris Duhon #21, and Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on January 27, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

It's March 1, and Kevin Martin is still on the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Was that supposed to happen?

He's made it awfully hard for it not to happen. Oklahoma City has taken away Martin's offensive freedom, and has maximized his efficiency as a microwave perimeter scorer. He's averaging nearly 15 points per game, taking fewer three-pointers and making more of them.

Considering the Thunder decided to hold onto Martin—a valuable asset whom they could lose for nothing at the expiration of his contract—you'd have to believe the Thunder are extremely interested in bringing him back. Alex Kennedy of reported that the Thunder have made assurances they will re-sign him.

And if it weren't for that damn salary cap, they'd be able to do so seamlessly. But the cap exists, and every addition means a sacrifice.

So what do the Thunder need to do to keep this guy?

Next year, Serge Ibaka will be making over $12 million, Kevin Durant more than $18 million, Russell Westbrook over $14 million and Kendrick Perkins more than $8 million.

That's more than $52 million committed to four players with Martin as an impending unrestricted free agent. Teams are going to be firing offers at him.  Based on the remaining salaries, the Thunder wouldn't be able to afford Martin at market value.

In order to bring back Kevin Martin, a few things needs to happen.

Hopefully for the Thunder, Kevin Martin and Tom Brady have been drinking the same Kool-Aid. But assuming Martin isn't a member of the Brady Bunch, he's not going to leave a substantial amount of money on the table.

Which raises the same question that bombarded Oklahoma City fans this summer. Are they going to amnesty Kenrick Perkins or what? It seemed reasonable then; it seems obvious now.

If you're a Thunder fan, would you rather keep Martin and lose Perkins or keep Perkins and lose Martin?

Amnestying Perkins wouldn't guarantee retaining Martin, but it could certainly improve the team's offer. And with Martin telling Yahoo! Sports that "hopefully everything works out here," it gives Oklahoma City an edge.

The real question centers around what kind of contract Martin will command on the open market. He's clearly much more effective as a third option and sixth man than he is as a primary scorer who takes 15 shots per game (he's currently taking 10.5 shots per game).

But even though he's more effective in this role, his value has diminished. It's like the difference between a three-down linebacker and a specialty package defensive player. Unfortunately for Martin, the specialty position pays less.

The Thunder will be hoping this is the case so they can keep the core intact, but only time will tell how much Martin is going to command and what the Thunder will be willing to do to keep him in town.