Minnesota Timberwolves: Grading Kelan Martin’s 2019-20 season

Kelan Martin, formerly of the Minnesota Timberwolves, has signed a two-way deal with the Indiana Pacers. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Kelan Martin, formerly of the Minnesota Timberwolves, has signed a two-way deal with the Indiana Pacers. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

The grading of Minnesota Timberwolves players throughout the 2019-20 season continues with a look at Kelan Martin’s rookie campaign.

Kelan Martin joined the Minnesota Timberwolves on a two-way contract last August after going undrafted out of Butler in 2018.

As Butler University’s second all-time leading scorer, Martin had spent a year playing in Germany before joining the Wolves’ 2019 Summer League team. Martin went on to lead that team, which also included Naz Reid and Jordan McLaughlin, in scoring and rebounding on their way to a second-place finish in Las Vegas.

With only two two-way contracts available, the Wolves initially signed Reid and McLaughlin, then offered a two-way deal to Martin after they had locked down Reid long-term.

Although Martin’s shooting numbers at the NBA level never quite matched what he put up in the G League this season, Martin started to earn consistent minutes during more recent games due to his reliable defensive effort and hustle. He’s played 31 games in total, starting four, and averaged 16 minutes per contest.

In 23 games with the Wolves’ G League squad in Des Moines, Martin averaged a solid 18.3 points and 5.4 rebounds on .471/.382/.769 shooting (field goal, 3-point and free throw percentages). He didn’t excel in any one category but was a guy who consistently filled the stat sheet in his 28.7 minutes per game.

Martin’s first mini-outbreak in the NBA came after Jake Layman went down with a toe injury in Utah on Nov. 19. Over that game and the next, Martin was able to score 24 points on 4-of-8 3-point shooting and 10-of-15 from the field. He had missed all 11 of his 3-point attempts up to that point.

In December and January, the former Bulldog split time between Iowa and Minnesota. The Wolves’ big league squad was in the midst of its alarmingly downward skid, and it was hard to find minutes for a player like Martin whose game was a little too similar to Treveon Graham’s.

Interestingly – and although pure chance most likely had a part in this – Minnesota had a 4-6 record in December and January when Martin played and just 1-18 when he didn’t.

If not chance, Martin’s defensive effort was the biggest contributor to the Wolves’ playing relatively well with him on the court. Minnesota gave up only 106.6 points per 100 possessions when Martin played, per Cleaning the Glass.

Offense was a different story, as Martin shot a poor 39 percent from the field and just 26 percent from 3-point range. He didn’t contribute much elsewhere, and the team scored only 104.3 points per 100 possessions with him in the game.

It should be mentioned that Martin’s four most common teammates were Jarrett Culver, Josh Okogie, Robert Covington and Gorgui Dieng — all defensive-minded players. That likely contributed to his low offensive and defensive ratings.

Shooting still seems to be Martin’s most likely path to success on offense. Jarrett Culver has shown promise as a playmaker and Josh Okogie has improved as a playmaker and cutter, but Martin seemed to have a hard time whenever his shots weren’t falling this year.

Those other traits might develop over time, but for next season, it will be important that he bridge the gap between his 26 percent clip from 3-point range this year and the 38 percent he shot in the G League.

2019-20 Season Grade: C+

Kelan Martin performed about as well as could be expected from an undrafted player still working on his NBA game. He wasn’t able to get many of his shots to fall but showed solid effort and was one of the few Wolves to post a low defensive rating.

Next. 3 positive takeaways from the 2019-20 Wolves season. dark

Martin was never as impactful as the Wolves hoped, but he contributed just enough to warrant a C+ rating for the year.