The Oklahoma City Thunder in recent years has proven to be an organization not fazed by challenges. Whether it be facing elite teams in the NBA, competing against large market teams or even letting players go.
This summer feels a little like the last as yet again a key player has left the organization, but the difference is this time, they are looking in-house for replacements after Kevin Martin skipped town for Minnesota.
Here are three Oklahoma City Thunder players that may have a huge role to play in regards to how much Martin will be missed.
Jeremy Lamb SG
The key to replacing Kevin Martin’s 14 points per game perhaps lies within how much second year shooting guard Jeremy Lamb improves. The Connecticut product will most likely be given first dibs on the sixth man role and have the freedom to do as he pleases with the second unit, despite playing only 6.4 minutes in 23 games last year.
However, if his two-year tenure at UConn is anything to go by, he could very well be this year’s dark horse for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award.
While at UConn, after the departure of Kemba Walker, Lamb was given more responsibilities and he went from averaging 11.1 points in 27.8 minutes to 17.7 point in 37.2 minutes. Also, he became more aggressive in his play style, increasing his free throw attempts from 1.4, to 3.6 a game.
If Jeremy Lamb can show that sort of improvement in his second year in the NBA, then he could very well be the answer to replacing Kevin Martin’s production.
Serge Ibaka PF/C
If Ibaka can fulfil his offensive potential and become the legit third scoring option then the loss of Martin (and James Harden the previous year) would barely be noticeable.
He has developed reliable baseline jumpshot and has even added some range all way out to the 3-point line. If he can develop even a decent post game, then the sky truly is the limit for Air Congo, especially if he is as aggressive offensively as he is defensively.
The Spanish international missed the Eurobasket Tournament this year after ending the 2012-13 a little banged up. And because he didn’t participate in the tourney, he will have had all summer to rest in preparation for 2013-14; the one many Oklahoma City coaches and fans alike hope will be the season he comes out of his offensive shell.
When Russell Westbrook went down, Reggie Jackson filled in nicely as the starting point guard, averaging 15.5 ppg while shooting 48.5 percent from the field in eight contests. In that same span, Kevin Martin averaged 14.5 points and shot just 40 percent from the field. In addition to this Jackson was also a better rebounder, with 5.75 boards per game compared to Martin’s 3.25.
Jackson is athletic an extremely athletic point guard who has the speed to get to pretty much wherever he wants on the court. But in order to be a great threat, he has to improve upon his less than impressive 3-point shot as he hit just 23.1 percent of his attempts.
Overall, Jackson may not be a great 3-point shooter but, if he can emulate his play in the eight games he started while Westbrook was out, then he can at least be a leader in the second unit. Perhaps he and an improved Jeremy Lamb, along with Nick Collison, can form a bench team to rival any other in the NBA. All while Serge Ibaka becomes a bigger scoring threat and creates a three-headed monster offensively for OKC with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.