Kevin Martin, James Harden and appreciating small sample sizes

Shane Bevel

Kevin Martin has played in eight games for the Oklahoma City Thunder this season. Has he sufficiently replaced James Harden thus far? So far, OKC's newest 6th-man is fitting in quite nicely.

I can't speak for all Oklahoma City Thunder fans, but when the news of the James Harden trade came down, I was despondent and depressed. It wasn't the fact that James Harden was just a really good player who was emerging as a great player, but it was the fact that James Harden and the emerging Thunder squad was cool as hell. Young, energetic, full of "swag" and limitless opportunities surrounded the "crew." Now, the crew was broken up.

Kevin Martin isn't quite as cool. His jumpshot is funny looking, if Martin started speaking and I couldn't see him, I'd have no idea if it was him or not. The man possesses no flash or any discernable characteristic outside of being tall. He wears a number that's quite common amongst swingmen (No. 23) and I don't know much about him, even though he's been in the league for nine (!!!) seasons.

Yet, for all of the worrying about what this new team will look like with No. 23 versus No. 13, statistically the output hasn't been that different at all. In fact, you could argue that No. 23's been slightly better. Let me just lay out Kevin Martin's current per game numbers in the 2012-13 season versus James Harden's numbers for the 2011-12 season. (All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference as of Monday, November 11th, 2012):

  • Kevin Martin: 2012-13, 8 games - 17.1 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2.0 APG, 48.1 FG%, 50.0 3PT% (2.3 3PTM), 93.8 FT% (5.6 FTM)
  • James Harden: 2011-12, 62 games - 16.8 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 3.7 APG, 49.1 FG%, 39.0 3PT% (1.8 3PTM), 84.6 FT% (5.0 FTM)

Look, I totally understand that this can be perceived as a small sample size. I mean, it is just seven games and all. However, what were are concerns about losing Harden? Scoring off the bench? Efficient shooting? Three-point shooting? Getting to the line?

Check. Check. Check. And.....check. Even the Oklahoma natives are beginning to take notice. Take Berry Tramel's words from the Daily Oklahoman on Sunday:

The Kevin Martin/James Harden comparisons aren't likely to end anytime soon, so no reason to fight it. In fact, here's another way K-Mart mimics Harden. The Kevin Martin/James Harden comparisons aren't likely to end anytime soon, so no reason to fight it. In fact, here's another way K-Mart mimics Harden. [...] Martin said there's been no surprises. The Boomers have been exactly what they looked like to Martin from afar. [...] But the Harden trade gave the Thunder something a little unexpected. Martin is not the defensive sieve his reputation sported.

So yes, maybe Martin's defense isn't Harden's, but he's not out there giving up 40 points a game to the backup wing players either. Maybe Martin doesn't rebound or dish the ball quite like Harden does, but so far he's made it up with increased shooting percentages and additional trips to the line. He's taken very little off the table and added very little back to it. Isn't this all we can ask for from Martin?

Some will wonder if the "cool" will ever return to the Thunder lineup, but you know what's the coolest thing ever is? Winning. Winning is cool as hell, and as long as Kevin Martin's contributing to Kevin Durant's, Russell Westbrook's, Scott Brooks and the rest of the Thunder's previously winning ways, then I think we'll be A-Ok.

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