A three team deal became official late yesterday between Oklahoma City, Milwaukee and Minnesota that sees Kevin Martin land on the fourth team of his career while Luke Ridnour is off to Milwaukee.
The Thunder also sent cash to both Milwaukee and Minnesota in the deal while only acquiring the rights to second round pick Szymon Szewczyk. To say the least, the Thunder seem content to give up Martin for practically nothing and did almost everything they possibly could to help facilitate the deal. If you’ve been watching any of the summer league, you can probably guess why.
The James Harden trade that sent Lamb to Oklahoma City appeared at times last season to be a stroke of genius for both Houston and Oklahoma City as life without the bearded star didn’t prove to be that difficult with Martin stepped in to fill the offensive void for Scott Brooks’ team. Now, someone has to step in to fill Martin’s shoes and that appears to be Jeremy Lamb.
After being drafted by the Houston Rockets 12th overall in 2012 and being used as a trade chip in the James Harden deal, Lamb played in just 23 games during his rookie season. We know very little about the 6-foot-5-inch playmaker other than he’s been a summer league sensation the last two years.
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Coming off a game winner against Orlando in which Lamb crossed over his opponent beautifully to hit a step back jumper, the former UConn standout went off for 32 points in a game against Philadelphia earlier this week. Now the question for OKC becomes whether or not Scott Brooks can work his magic again, the way he did with Harden and Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, to develop Lamb into the shooting guard of OKC’s future.
By moving Martin, the Thunder rid themselves of a guy they paid $12 million last season and are now grooming a guy they’re paying $2.1 million to replace him. With $65 million in cap space already committed to next season, the team had to shed Martin. The free agent market is limited as to what it has to offer at this point, the Thunder needing a big man that outclasses Kendrick Perkins more than anything else.
The team still possesses its amnesty clause and could use it to waive Kendrick Perkins and the $17.5 million they still owe him over the next two years in an attempt to acquire a center that can significantly contribute to their cause, but there really isn’t anyone out there available as a free agent. The Thunder, however, have flexibility in their search for a center in the future. That flexibility is made possible by the whole at shooting guard being filled by Lamb in the future, a guy the Thunder have options on over the next two years and could hold onto through 2017 while never paying him more than $4.2 million.
Lamb appears ready to make the jump to playing a more significant role at this point for the Thunder. The next step is for him to come off the bench behind Thabo Sefalosha for at least a portion of next season until he is groomed to playing night in and night out in the NBA. If he can translate his summer league play to the league for Oklahoma City, the James Harden trade will have been a stroke of genius for the Thunder even more so than it was for the Rockets.