Apr 2, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Kevin Martin (23) challenged by Memphis Grizzlies guard Courtney Lee (5) in the first half at Target Center. The Wolves defeated the Grizzlies 102-88. Mandatory Credit: Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

Off-season player capsule: Kevin Martin

This is Part Seven in a thirteen-part series that will examine all players currently on the Wolves’ roster that played for the team last season. We’ll be omitting Kevin Love, because…well, you know why.

Kevin Martin was acquired just over a year ago chiefly because of Rick Adelman‘s intense fondness for his game, and more importantly, how he fits into Coach Adelman’s offensive system.

Indeed, Martin’s best years were largely with Adelman at the helm, save for a very good campaign as Oklahoma City’s sixth man. The Wolves so desperately wanted to bring the then-30-year-old swingman on-board that they ponied-up a four-year contract in excess of $27 million — a clear overpay for a slight, no-defense-type player heading into the down years of his career.

But, what’s done is done. And Martin started out the season last year like a bat out of hell; he helped carry the Wolves to a hot start through the opening four-plus weeks of the year. Eventually, he broke his wrist in February and ultimately played in just 68 games in his first season in a Timberwolves uniform.

Martin actually shot better from long-range than he has over his career (38.7% vs. 38.5%), but he was overall less efficient as a scorer than he generally has been in the past. Part of this is still due to the so-called “rip-through” rule changes that began to take effect in 2011-12, but the number of long two-point shots that Martin took (and that were encouraged within the iteration of Adelman’s offense that existed in Minnesota) sapped his overall effectiveness.

Indeed, Martin was at the height of efficiency when he was averaging .547 free throw attempts for every field goal attempt over the first seven years of his NBA career, according to Basketball-Reference.com. In the three seasons since the rule-change, Martin has seen his free throw attempt rate plummet to just .327 attempts for each field goal attempted. That’s an enormous difference, and combined with age, it’s not a trend that’s reversing anytime soon.

As mentioned, the second part to the decrease in efficiency from Martin is the number of mid-range and turnaround jumpers taken in 2013-14 in comparison with the prior seasons. Not only are long twos generally inefficient shots (the horse has been beaten to death on this one, admittedly), but they take away from shot attempts that could be coming from beyond the arc, where Martin is a much more effective shooter.

First, let’s verify that threes are a better use of Martin’s shots. Check out the chart below, and keep in mind that 38.7% of something worth three-points is always worth 35.91% of a two-point shot.


Pretty easy math, isn’t it?

Now, let’s suppose that the reason for Martin’s increase in mid-range shots and decrease in overall efficiency holds a correlation to an increase in age, and by default, a decrease in speed and athleticism.

That’s all well and good, but here’s the issue: Martin shot three-pointers at a career-low rate in 2013-14, save for his 45-game rookie season back in 2004-05 with Sacramento. And what did he replace those missing long-balls with? Long two-pointers, no doubt. Only 29% of Martin’s shot attempts came from beyond the arc. With Thunder? 47.7% were from deep.

Sure, he played with Kevin Durant. What about his last year in Houston? Martin attempted 41.9% of his shots from beyond the arc.

Look at Martin’s shot chart in Oklahoma City, courtesy of NBAsavant.com. Circles and squares are jump-shots.

chart (1)

Heavy on the left-side of the floor, but generally not too much in the mid-range. Now, for his 2013-14 shot chart with the Wolves. Squares are jump-shots.


A bit messier.

My hunch would be that Martin’s three-point attempts naturally increase in 2014-15, if only because of the floor spacing provided by young wings driving to the hoop, along with the continued presence of Nikola Pekovic. Kevin Love won’t be hanging out on the perimeter, and Martin will be free to space the floor without being needed to play the two-man game with the power forward (which, by the way, was effective last year).

If Martin can accept a role focused more on being spot-up shooter and less on “creating”, things should improve for him, and the Wolves, next season. In OKC, Martin was a deadly off-ball weapon that could also pump-fake and drive the ball into the paint. Playing with Russell Westbrook and Durant was a perfect fit for Martin’s skills at age 29+.

Here’s hoping he realizes that he can make a killing in that role in Minnesota, only the cast of characters will include Ricky Rubio, Andrew Wiggins, and Zach LaVine instead.

Not quite as glamorous, but Martin’s three-point shot should be every bit as effective as it was earlier in his career.

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