How Will OKC Thunder Replace Kevin Martin After New Deal with Timberwolves?
Kevin Martin signed a four-year, $28 million deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves, meaning the Oklahoma City Thunder's sixth man and third-leading scorer bolted town for a long-term payday. Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski relayed the details:
Free agent Kevin Martin has reached agreement on a four year, $28 million deal with Minnesota, league source tells Y! Sports.—Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 2, 2013
Following the trade that sent James Harden to the Houston Rockets, it was clear that Oklahoma City was content with centering the team around Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, while holding Serge Ibaka on the periphery and filling the rest of the squad with role players.
The key role player they got in return is now gone, but that doesn't mean the Thunder are without options.
Before getting into the players they could use to replace Martin, let's go ahead and take a look at what they've got to spend in free agency.
As it stands, the Thunder have just under $68 million in committed salary, along with $2.6 million in cap holds from draft picks.
The July moratorium on free agents doesn't end until July 10, at which point the salary cap and luxury tax lines will be set. Until then we can operate on assumptions based on last season.
Last year's luxury tax line was just north of $70 million, meaning the Thunder would be right around that mark and likely over.
Given the $4 million apron, Oklahoma City would not be allowed to use the full mid-level exception and would instead be relegated to the "mini" mid-level exception worth $3.18 million.
Oklahoma City has plenty of options to get under the luxury tax line, but likely will have no way of getting far enough under to actually have cap space.
Using its amnesty provision on Kendrick Perkins is an option, plus the Thunder have many tradable assets. Both options would likely give them full use of the mid-level exception, but the second would give them a player in return.
Their Own Roster
It's entirely possible that they will use a combination of their own players to replace Martin, depending on how much confidence they have in their current roster.
Reggie Jackson was extremely impressive in the playoffs, averaging 14 points per game and shooting 48 percent in place of Westbrook.
Putting him in the sixth-man role, but always having him play alongside Durant and/or Westbrook, would be the perfect situation for him, as he would be involved in the offense without being asked to run it.
Beyond Jackson, Jeremy Lamb is the obvious guy to step into a more important role, especially since he was considered to be one of the centerpieces of the Harden trade.
Lamb was underwhelming in his rookie season, playing in just 23 games and shooting 35 percent from the field, but it was largely in mop-up duty at the end of blowouts.
Otherwise, they're going to have to expect additional contributions from the likes of Thabo Sefolosha and Nick Collison, along with a bit of help from this year's top draft pick, Steven Adams.
At the very least, a mid-level exception three-and-D player looks necessary.
The Thunder have a leg up on other contending teams looking for three-point shooters who can play a bit of defense.
While the San Antonio Spurs may be running around with a ton of cap space, the New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers and most of the other teams are lucrative based on the fact that they're good teams.
One name has been thrown around already: Adrian Wojnarowski writes that Dorell Wright is also on their list.
Who is beyond that? Well, long-range shooters are abundant, but those who can also play a bit of defense are going to be a bit harder to grab.
Kyle Korver still hasn't locked in with the Nets. Mo Williams. O.J. Mayo, Devin Harris, Chris Copeland, Gerald Henderson, Nate Robinson and Francisco Garcia are all still out there. They'll definitely help a bit with the scoring, but any defense from this group is going to be average at best.
In a situation like this, it might actually make sense for the Thunder to split up the exception. They might think of trying to land two players and put together a bench much like the Rockets had last season, when Houston was able to ride a hot hand and sub out non-contributors.
As far as trades are concerned, who knows which players might be available before the season starts.
After all, who would have thought James Harden was available for trade last October? The Thunder could have something up their sleeves.
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