Kevin Martin is moving on.
After just one season in a Thunder uniform, Martin on Tuesday agreed to a four-year, $28 million contract with Minnesota, according to multiple media reports.
The deal can't become official until July 10, when the NBA lifts the annual moratorium on trades and free-agent signings.
“Minny was my first option outside OKC, so I've got to take it,” Martin told USA TODAY Sports. “Especially being (with coach Rick) Adelman, and their starting lineup just needed a (shooting) guard, so I feel like it's a perfect fit. I'm not one to play around. I know where my heart is.”
Martin was one of the pieces the Thunder received in the preseason trade that sent James Harden to Houston. But his departure does not come as a surprise. It was common knowledge that Martin was a one-year rental who would keep the Thunder in championship contention as opposed to a key piece who would complement the team's core for future seasons.
Oklahoma City also received Jeremy Lamb and this year's 12th and 32nd overall picks, which the Thunder used on Steven Adams and Alex Abrines, respectively, and a future first-round pick from Dallas in the deal. Many have criticized that package as below market value for a budding perennial All-Star like Harden. But the Thunder is banking on those assets blossoming and in time becoming critical components around Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka.
With maximum contracts already extended to Durant and Westbrook, as well as sizable deals on Ibaka and center Kendrick Perkins, the Thunder simply didn't have the resources to re-sign Martin. Doing so would have put the franchise well past the tax threshold, which, starting this season, penalizes teams $1.50 for every $1 they exceed that plateau. Next season's tax line is projected to be $71.6 million.
The Thunder's payroll this season already is at about $69 million if you exclude Daniel Orton and DeAndre Liggins, both of whom have non-guaranteed contracts.
There's also the matter of Martin's production. He blended in as best he could in an imperfect situation but was far from an ideal fit with the Thunder. Accustomed to being the first option throughout much of his career, Martin was forced to adapt to being the third and sometimes fourth scoring option in OKC.
He averaged 14 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 77 games last season but scored 10 points or less in 20 games. In the postseason, Martin's shooting percentage plummeted, going from 45 percent to 38 percent from the field and 42.6 percent to 37 percent from 3-point range.
“I knew exactly what my role was going to be,” Martin said in May during his last interview as a member of the Thunder. “I knew I was going to go from being the first option to being the third option. I was going to have to embrace it and that's what I did. I came in here just trying to be a positive influence with what they had already started to create around here and just help the team in any form I can.”
The Thunder, because of its salary cap constraints, is not expected to replace Martin with a major free-agent signing. Instead, the team likely will look to Lamb and third-year guard Reggie Jackson to provide bench scoring.