With the volume-scoring guard set to explore unrestricted free agency upon season’s end, much has been made of his future, or lack thereof, in Oklahoma City. Not because of his performance, though. He’s averaging 14.3 points on 44.9 percent shooting (42.6 percent from deep), respectable numbers for any sixth man.
The problem has always been how much money he would command over the summer.
Oklahoma City wasn’t prepared to pay James Harden, an essential superstar, for fear of any luxury tax penalties. Its not about to make an exception for Martin, who’s on the wrong side of 30, no matter how well he’s performed.
Per Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman, however, Martin won’t be hunting for obscene amounts of cash this summer:
When the time comes, what’s going to go into your decision of where to sign this summer?
“I don’t know. I can have a perception of what’s going to go into it, but this is going to be my first time doing it. My perception would be happiness and a good fit basketball-wise. I’m in a situation that after nine years I don’t have to chase money. So I think that part goes into a lot of guys’ minds when it happens. But for me, I found a new happiness here when I got traded here. It feels like a good fit. But we’ll see when it comes around.”
I don’t have to tell you that Martin’s free-agency stance seems to favor the Thunder. That he’s acknowledging he’s at the stage of his career where he’ll chase titles and not dollars signs is huge for Oklahoma City.
But how huge?
While Martin appears willing to take less to play for a contender, there’s no telling how much less he’ll take. He could easily fetch between $8-10 million annually on the open market, especially amongst this year’s free agency crop. Can the Thunder even come close to that?
Not at all.
As of now, Oklahoma City has a little over $66 million on its books for next season. Anything over $70 million ensures that the luxury tax will be paid. For the Thunder to stay under that $70 million apron then, they can only offer Martin $4 million annually.
Though he appears committed to his current team, I’m not sure Martin could accept that. Not when he’s easily worth double.
Oklahoma City could decide to creep into the luxury tax a bit and sign Martin for $6-8 million a year, but that depends on how much they’re willing to pay.
Another option would be dealing someone to create some space. Kendrick Perkins is having a far-from-spectacular season, and I firmly believe his is a contract the Thunder would love to move. This side of the lockout, that’s much easier written than even legitimately discussed, let alone done.
Thus, the Thunder and Martin are approaching a crossroads. Will they be able to reach a mutual compromise, or will the dollars and cents of this business force Martin’s hand?
The answer may just lie in how far Martin helps bring the Thunder in the playoffs.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.