The disenchantment of Martin, combined with Rockets GM Daryl Morey’s search for a superstar, certainly turned out to be part of the equation. Martin, an eight-year veteran, has played in just six career playoff games and wanted to escape a Houston franchise where he was going to be relied upon to lead the rebuilding Rockets to 20 wins — if they were lucky.
Morey, on the other hand, has been searching for transcendent talent for years (He traded for Pau Gasol last year, only to have the deal voided, and he accumulated a pile of picks and young players in an effort to get Dwight Howard). With Harden, he has acquired a talented backcourt mate with sizable upside to play alongside Jeremy Lin.
“James is the foundational, franchise type player we have been seeking the past few seasons,” Morey told the Houston Chronicle. ”He makes us better from day one and will play a big part in helping get us back to a championship level.”
The Thunder could have waited, but clearly didn’t want to pay max money for Harden – either now or after the season – so they decided to sell the bearded bandit at his peak. “The value in a trade was greater based on the fact that the Rockets could offer him the contract he was seeking,” said Thunder GM Sam Presti. “By doing it when we did it, I believe it will allow the Rockets to secure him and James will get the contract he was seeking. Because of that, we were able to capitalize on the trade and were able to get a little more than if we had waited.”
At the heart of their decision is the frugal nature with which OKC operates: They build their team through due diligence and calculated investments. Despite the chemistry that was built between Durant, Harden and Westbrook, OKC is confident that Martin can come in and contribute to the Thunder in his own way and help them get over the hump this season. Oklahoma City wouldn’t have made this deal if they weren’t confident in Martin’s ability to step in and fill James Harden’s role.
That being said, let’s take a look at what the Thunder received in Martin.
Most notably, the Thunder get a player who excels as a catch-and-shoot option and who should thrive in the same offense as the oft double-teamed Durant and the powerful and speedy playmaker Westbrook. Martin will thrive in kick-out situations and making plays to free himself in the mid-range.
According to HoopData.com, Martin averaged nearly 5.3 shots per game from 10-23 feet over the past six seasons. Having been on teams where he’s been counted on to score the ball, it’s impressive that he makes a concerted effort to take comfortable, quality shots. On the other hand, Harden has averaged 1.3 shots per game from 10-23 feet during his first three seasons in the league.
Big difference, eh?