How Much Is Kevin Martin Worth to the OKC Thunder?
Let's get this out of the way: Kevin Martin has done an admirable job replacing the departed James Harden.
Martin is nowhere near the playmaker that Harden is, but his ability to put up points in bunches, while effectively spacing the floor, has made losing "The Bearded One" much easier on the Oklahoma City Thunder.
In addition, Martin's three-point shooting percentage is the highest it's been in his career, making him a supremely deadly option when playing off of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant in late-game situations.
In spite of the evidence that points to Martin being a great fit in the Thunder's system, his stint with the team might be a short one.
That's because of the NBA's new collective bargaining agreement, which forces team to shell out some serious dollars if they go into the luxury tax.
Assuming the 2013-14 salary cap is about the same as it is now ($70.307 million), then OKC is going to have right around $4 or 5 million to work with this summer; much lower than what Martin currently makes ($12.9 million).
The good news for Martin and the Thunder is that he's already said that he wants to stay in Oklahoma and would take a pay cut to do so.
The bad news is that there are a few factors working against that happening.
The first is that Oklahoma City has a younger, cheaper version of Martin already on the team. Jeremy Lamb also came over in the James Harden trade, but he hasn't been able to find much playing time on this loaded Thunder squad.
However, when Lamb was drafted last summer, there were quite a few scouts already making comparisons between the young guard and Kevin Martin.
It makes sense, considering both players can score from all over the court.
And, as he adds some bulk, Lamb is going to become an even more attractive prospect. He also holds a major advantage over Martin due to his athleticism. Right now, Martin is the better option, but that could quickly change after Lamb gets a full offseason in OKC's system.
The other thing that could hurt Martin's chances at being back with the team also has to do with youth.
Along with the lottery pick, Oklahoma City has at least two more selections this year, which translates into three more contracts they potentially need to sign.
With at least three young players to bring in and a young stud like Jeremy Lamb waiting in the wings, it's easy to see how Kevin Martin may become expendable this offseason.
There is still hope, as Oklahoma City's general manager Sam Presti could talk Martin into signing for around $3 or 4 million, which might be enough to keep the Thunder from going too far over the salary cap.
However, if Martin asks for much more over that threshold, don't expect Oklahoma City to cave in.
After all, they shipped away one of the better young prospects in the league just a few days before this season began because he wouldn't sacrifice dollars for the team.
It's hard to envision the organization acting any differently when Martin's contract is on the table this summer.
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