In all of the off-season talks we've engaged in so far, the forgotten man seems to be Kevin Martin. He was the Thunder's fourth leading scorer last season, and an essential cog coming off of the bench. However, what most fans are going to remember him for is how drastically he dropped off during the playoffs, playing a large role in the Thunder's defeat.
Heading into the off-season, Kevin Martin is an unrestricted free agent. Basically, that means he can sign with any team he wants, without restrictions. Technically, the Thunder can offer him more than any other team, but realistically, they can't offer him more than a minimum deal.
Why? Well, the Thunder are running up against the famed luxury tax threshold. When they go over that threshold, they have to pay $1.50 to the league for every dollar they spend on a player. If they go $5 Million over the threshold, the amount increases to $1.75, and so on.
Big market teams that have owners with deep pockets, like the Nets and Mavs, can afford to go over this tax as much as their money will allow. Small market teams like ours have limited resources, so they can't afford to go too much over this tax line.
Where are the Thunder right now? Well, the Thunder have $64,793,678 in guaranteed salary for next year. This includes the salary of Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka, Perkins, Sefolosha, Collison, Lamb, Jackson, and Jones III. But the Thunder will also be signing their two first round draft picks. Steven Adams will likely sign for $2,090,880, while Andre Roberson will likely sign for $1,110,840. That puts the Thunder's guaranteed salary total at $67,995,398.
Here's the bad news: The luxury tax threshold is at $70,307,000. This gives the Thunder only $2,311,602 to spend on at least two more players (as they need 13 to make a full roster). Most likely, this money will go to the players the Thunder have on non-guaranteed contracts, who will make about $1M each. Basically, the Thunder will probably end up signing Thabeet and Liggins, while cutting Orton without penalty. That would put them at 13 players, and a salary of $70,079,691. Just about $200,000 away from the luxury tax, with breathing room gained when more players expire next year.
Where does this leave Kevin Martin? Well, it leaves him in the category of too expensive. Theoretically, the Thunder could offer him over $16 Million next season, but no one is going to pay that amount for him. A more realistic Market value would be in the neighborhood of $5 Million. A lot of the teams that are offering Martin money are over the soft cap, so all they can pay him is the Mid-Level Exception, which is at $5 Million. There's a chance some teams might be willing to pay more, like in the $6-8 Million range, but anything over that would probably be overkill.
Is there any hope? Well, if the Thunder are going to re-sign Kevin Martin, one of three drastic things has to happen.
1. A Trade. Ever wonder why Sam Presti was so aggressively shopping Kendrick Perkins and two picks during the draft? He really wanted to get rid of his salary, while also getting rid of the two expensive first round draft pick salaries. Had the trade gone through, it would have cleared hella cap room. Basically, we would've had the space to re-sign Martin and a couple of other guys, like Brewer, Orton, or another Free Agent.
2. The amnesty clause. The Thunder held onto their amnesty from the 2012 CBA, and they can use it to release Durant, Westbrook, Perkins, Sefolosha, or Collison, and have none of their salary count against the cap. Amnestying Durant or Westbrook would be senseless, obviously. Collison and Sefolosha provide good value for money, so they're out. The obvious solution is to amnesty Perk, who's making 9 million. That would clear room for Martin, but Sam Presti has already said that amnestying Perk is not an option. So don't expect this to happen any time soon.
3. Go over the Luxury Tax. Just so you know, this option is the least likely of all three. Let me put it this way: The Thunder refused to re-sign James Harden, for fear of going over the tax. What makes you think they'll go over to sign Kevin Martin?
So, when you're looking at the news over the next few weeks, wondering what the Thunder are going to do, don't even pay attention to where Kevin Martin is going. Pay attention to potential trades, because that's where the real action is. Starting next year with 13 players and a lack of Kevin Martin is probably a worst case scenario for Presti at this point, so a deal is almost certain to be done. At least, I hope.
What do you think about the Thunder's free agent situation? Let us know in the comments!
For more info on Free Agency, check out Larry Coon's CBA FAQ.