Number two on the roster review docket, is the incumbent starting shooting guard, Kevin Martin. He is one of the holdovers from a bygone era: The Adelmanian Years.
The Adelmanian Age was a time in Twolves past when PFs shot step back threes, wing players imitated NFL wide outs: when the front court featured flat footed rim-protection and everyone complained far too much about officiating. This era was riddled with injuries that left the organization wallowing in mediocrity. While it still far surpassed the rule of the tyrant Rambis Khan, who pulled the team back to the “Johnny Flynn”-stone Age of hoops, it didn’t lead to much joy for the inhabitants of the tundras of Minnesota.
Thankfully, King Adelman, advocate of the high post, purveyor of pin-downs and bastion of back-door cuts, and Dr. Flip Saunders, Phd., professor of point-guardology (who is rumored to have discovered the mid-range jump-shot cerca 1955), have managed to pull the team back to the NBA equivalent of, well … maybe, the Renaissance. While I wish the team found themselves past the enlightenment and full-on into the present technology age, this sill must be considered a step in the right direction. But what does this budding new era mean for a certain loyal subject in the court of King Adelman? The valiant knight errant, Sir Martin, has come to a cross road in his quest
Moving on …
Some have drawn the conclusion that the Wolves may be headed a towards a different Target than K-mart. So (while I apologize for that pun AND for mixing my metaphors) I’m going to shelve the metaphor of the epochs of hoops antiquity, with rambling basketball minstrels and professors with made up doctorates, and invite you to enter through a set automatic doors to explore the basketball commodities available in K-mart’s aisles… or in this case, the K-Mart faisles (Ba. Dum. Ching.)
…but just like real life at K-Mart, while “value” is present, it may be somewhat suspect.
Aisle 1-7: Offense
It comes to no surprise that the aisles of K-mart would be stocked full of offense. Any NBA fan who’s been paying attention for the last decade-plus, should know that Kevin Martin is a bonafide NBA scorer. In order to be the kind of offensive assassin that Kevin Martin can be, these aisles have to be filled with a variety of different weapons.
One of the major commodities found in these aisles is the ability to shoot the ball, featuring unconventional shooting mechanics and in-your-eye, i-don’t-care-about-your-defense daggers. Many folks figure that this is were K-mart offers the best value. In 2012-13 with the Thunder, Martin had his highest TS% in his career. Because of that statistic, many people would be quick to jump to the conclusion that his best role would be that of a three point specialist. First, I would like to call your attention to two videos.
The above video shows Martin’s play when he in is a role as a shooter along side the greatness that is the Oklahoma City Thunder. As I recall, this was one of Martin’s best game as a member of the Thunder. During his time in OKC, which is to be explored further a tiny bit later in the (f)aisles, Martin was featured in a different role than for the rest of his career. But this game still shows Martin doing what he does best. This next video highlights some additional positives of classic K-mart offense.
To me, both of these videos show the full gambit of Kevin Martin’s offensive game. In that game against the TWolves he showed his ability to dominate imperfect defense. Wayne Ellington got put to work and nothing he did mattered. Also in this game, K-mart acted as if Luke Ridnour was completely invisible. Like the Rockets commentary guy said, you can’t guard an NBA player when they get it going like Kevin Martin can. In these video’s we see a complete offensive player. K-Mart has all of the tools. He’ll kill a team with the three, or blow by the D if they over compensate. He’ll take guys into the post and score over them with his size, he’ll work his butt off without the ball to get into position to score, and he’ll rack up points from the free throw line.
Taking a look at Martin’s statistics shown below (via Basketball Reference), I see some potentially interesting trends. I’d like to highlights a few specific stats: points per 100 possessions, three point attempt percentage and free throw attempts per 100 possessions.
While I don’t feel like taking the time to determine if there is a true statistical correlation here or if it even really matters, I do see a pattern. Looking at the relationship between Martin’s scoring production (points per 100 poss) and the methods in which he scores it appears something was significantly different in his time with OKC that any other time in his career. With the Twolves, Sac Town and Houston, Martin has had freedom and was frequently able to operate with the ball in his hands. Stick with me here. Martin’s best seasons are those that have the highest free throw attempts per 100 poss.
It’s obvious that more free throw attempts per 100 possessions would results in more points in the same 100 possessions. However the more he camps out behind the three point line he appears to reach the free throw line less. (If some one wants to go and do a real statistical analysis I think that would be awesome.) Now based on assumptions made by ts%, Martin seems to contradict what I would expect. For a good three point shooter, ts% asserts that he should be definitively more effective if he shoots more behind the arch.
Should this come as a surprise? While it’s almost certain that most would label K-Mart as the Twolves best three point shooter and I would gladly see his three point attempt percentage rise significantly next season, in nearly all of his NBA experience, Kevin Martin has filled a more diverse role in the offense then spotting up behind three point line. This places him in a specific NBA role: Scoring Guard. And in that role, he must have the ball in his hands with freedom.
Half of Aisle 8: Rebounding
As a bigger shooting guard, it would seem logical that Kevin Martin should be a solid rebounder.
And sure enough Martin pretty effectively. He spoke about the team having lost Kevin Love that everybody needed to step up on the glass. Of course this could be a bit self fulfilled, because without K-Love, there were simply be more rebounds to go around.
To be fair, taking a look at Martin’s stats, he has been fairly consistent as a rebounder, at a respectable rate for an NBA shooting guard. This is something that isn’t frequently mentioned when talking about Kevin Martin. Probably because it is one way where he is quietly average. But when inquiring about a players value, average essential basketball skills are still important to take into account.
The Other Half of Aisle 8: Defense
If you look at Martin’s career stats it’s pretty crystal clear he isn’t a great defender. If you want to look at some bad defensive ratings, fell free to venture over to Kevin Martin’s page at Basketball Reference. What does this say about his value as a player?
Martin, like Rubio, does have the benefit of quick feet and long arms and he occasionally use them to get into passing lanes. However, as expressed in the Rubio Files, that skill is dangerous if over emphasized, and may not even be worth considering a defensive skill.
Martin is quoted stating that he “got a way with a lot in the past” while playing with other great players in Sacramento and Houston. This suggests that he wasn’t quite there in terms of effort on defense. Before the beginning of last season, Martin also said that he got into a better mindset in OKC about defensive effort.
However, when it came to defense, the last two seasons of Twolves basketball were historically bad, and Martin certainly didn’t appear to be one of the positives. Nonetheless, his impact, or any improvement he made is not easy to compare to years past, because of how miserable the team as a whole fared. Then think about how good OKC’s defense would have been surrounding Martin and there’s no wonder that’s his best season defensively.
Fact is, it’s hard to judge someone’s defensive impact on a game if they don’t get 5 steals or wag their finger in people’s faces when they block their shot. What is easy to see, is when someone is putting in effort. Now, I’m not saying Martin is lazy but it’s quite clear he doesn’t put the same amount of effort into defense as he does to offense.
This takes me on a tangent back to hoops antiquity.
In some ways there are some comparisons to the mentality of basketball players to that of a knight or a warrior. In battle the goal is to stubbornly defend and to relentlessly attack. In hoops the goal is to score more than your opponent, and to do that a player has to defend and well … offend. Like in battle, basketball players have different roles to play. First, there are players like M.J., Kobe, and LeBron, the modern day warriors, who are relentless and focused on both ends of the court. They look to put a choke hold on you on both ends of the court and had/have all of the skill, ability and willingness to put in the work to do it on a nightly basis. Chris Paul is like this on a lower power level. Then there’s players who specialize. I think of players like Dennis Rodman, who put in all of the effort and pin point the specific areas of the game where they can dominate and put all their effort into that. Then there’s guys like Ron “Meta World Whatever” Artest, who began their careers priding themselves on their defense, aiming to shut opponents down, who, over time developed in to effective offensive players. Ronny (I refuse to refer to that man as anything to do with “peace”) would always make me say something like this: “Artest!? Did he really just make that shot? You’ve got to be kidding me!”.
Then there are players like Reggie Miller who do somewhat the opposite. Reggie had all of the trash talk of course, but put his most effort in on the offensive end to utterly embarrass their match up. I see a little of this in Steph Curry. While he doesn’t bring the trash talk to a Miller level, he certainly likes to make defenders look foolish. While Steph relies on undying effort on defense, Miller relied on theatrics. Kevin Martin is a silent assassin on offense. He does one thing. He scores and then he disappears. Maybe some day I’ll turn Sir Martin into ninja Martin, because he will disappear in a flash. Like Miller, Martin is very effective on offense and is, by scoring efficiency alone, player you want on the court. And at least in the age of King Adelman, one did not simply bench a guy who can score more than 20 points on a nightly basis.
Apparently in the Court of King Adelman, it doesn’t matter weather or not player is hurting the team defensively. I’ll leave that to the coaches to decide.
The Feel of the Store in the Neighborhood:
Many Minneapolitans will know about a specific debate. The K-mart on Lake Street is, in some crowds an extremely hot button issue. K-mart and the Timberwolves can be related to the K-mart on Lake Street and the city of Minneapolis on a somewhat shallow level. For the Twolves, Martin provides value. He provides consistency and is reliable in the scoring aspect of the game. In the same way the K-mart on Lake Street is valued by the many shoppers that frequent the store. It’s reliable and consistent for them, if by it’s presence alone.
Now the K-mart on Lake Street happens to be built on top of S. Nicollet Avenue, which makes it a road block in the way of any future city development plans. K-mart on the floor at the Target Center confiscates minutes from younger players which may hinder the future development of the franchise.
There’s a sense in both issues that there’s really no good result. Jettison Kevin Martin and the Twolves lose consistent production in the vital NBA skill of putting the ball in the bucket. Flatten the Lake Street K-Mart and a vital population of the city loses the consistency of their “always has been” department store of choice. however, without any change, there’s less chance for potential for great development. It’d force a less logical expansion of light rail. It’d keep young bloods on the Twolves bench instead of opening up a pleathora of minutes at the 2 guard position. It’s a complex issue. Both at the Target Center and on Nicollet Ave..
The questions really becomes: is Martin’s value as a scorer currently more valuable than development for the future? can we somehow have both? and what is the appropriate balance?
Assessment of Value:
It is impossible to ignore the way Kevin Martin scores the ball, but how much benefit does that make if his effort on other areas if the game can be suspect. At which point does it stop helping and start hurting a team. This is when I’m glad I’m a fan and not a coach or a GM (or both like Dr. Flip Saunderstein). I can think down these paths of thoughts and not have to actually make and decisions based on my conclusions. However I will make conclusions and I will make decisions as if I was responsible for them.
I think it this case Martin’s value is changed by what role he is playing and that seriously has a lot of variables. Subjectively, as a NBA starter at SG Martin is pretty good. I grade him as such:
Martin is solid. If he was some facsimile of a two way player he would be every bit good enough to merit an A rating. When he is healthy he can fill it up with the best of him. I even noticed a post where somebody had Martin listed as the fifth best SG in the league. I think that could be a bit exaggerated, but today as a starter all Twolves fans should be glad to have Kevin Martin locked into 27 minutes or more per game. He’s already pretty high on the list of best SGs in Twolves history. While looking at that list would be genuinely depressing, it’s great to have the consistency that K-mart brings. He brings it night in and night out and though he has his faults, a good expectation of getting 20+ points out of the SG position, is certainly worth the $7m he’s due in cap this year.
Potential is the wrong word here which is why I referred to this second category of my “report card” as outlook. Martin isn’t getting any younger. He doesn’t really fit the team mold going forward and he’s no longer at a time in his career where he’s going to learn any new tricks. It’s safe to say he’s set in his ways pretty deeply, which is some ways isn’t bad. Truth is the longer Kevin Martin is the Twolves starting shooting guard the less valuable he is for the Twolves. Chalk it up with Flip Saunderstein’s mad scheme to develop these young pups on the roster into two way players, Martin isn’t the greatest role model. He’s not the worst either, but still…
To me a high B+ really sums up Martin’s value right now for the Timberwolves. He’s at the end of his prime, if it can even be called that, and cannot logically be part of any of the long term plans of the organization. What be comes interesting is what happens if his role is changed. If he came off the bench with Flip Saunders as a coach, chances are there would be no mandate to change his style of play. He certainly wouldn’t be encouraged by Flip to camp out behind the three point line. If anything he’d be drawn up for more pin down’s and mid rage shots than the alternative. Would he struggle with less touches? It’s not clear.
But if he became a shooter/scorer off the bench on less minutes I’m hard pressed to see how that could positively effect his value. I think the players that could be effective in that role are guys like Anthony Morrow, Jason Kapono or even Kyle Korver who are just super high efficiency knock down shooters. Or guys like Danny Green who have the whole “three and D” mentality and functionality, however they then, continue to be more valuable as their minutes increase.
It’s yet to be determined if Martin could be effective as an NBA role player. There is one factor that would suggest that he could be, however, and that is his shooting. It’s a common misconception that players will become worse shooters as they age. This doesn’t happen until a guy loses upper body mobility, stops practicing or has some kind of neurological disorder.. At Martin’s age, he’s got a while until he gets there.
One thought about Martin’s value that is interesting, would be his value at the trade deadline. If a team needed some scoring either at starting SG or off of the bench and was making a playoff push, the Twolves could offer K-mart up. What he would bring in at that time is probably less than stellar, but there’s still value there to be explored, especially if one or more of the young bloods start to really rise up … it might just be in the teams best interest to flatten a department store. But for now, I’ll leave you with this, and hope we see a lot more of it this season. Kevin Martin, basketball ninja assassin:
Yeah … That’s pretty dope.