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What’s a Fair Trade Offer for Kenyon Martin Jr?

N.B. Lindberg
Houston Rockets v Brooklyn Nets
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Kenyon Martin Jr., Houston Rockets
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Kenyon Martin Jr.’s Offensive Game

Kenyon Martin Jr.’s excellent shooting efficiency has been the driving force behind Rockets fans' cries for him to play more. However, how a player garners their efficiency is nearly as important as the efficiency itself.

25.6% of Martin’s field goal attempts were dunks, which is fantastic, but when 73.5% of his 2-point field goals were assisted, it starts to paint a picture of where his offensive value comes from. Martin’s 61.7% shooting on 2-pointers is being created for him, not by him. If he was a seven-foot-tall rim running center, that wouldn’t be a problem, but as a 6’6 cutter, it limits his offensive utility. 

The next concern is his 3-point shooting. Martin doesn’t take mid-range jumpers, is a poor 3-point shooter from the corners (career 28.4%), and is also a bad free throw shooter (career 66.7%), but has managed to shoot 36% from 3-point range, which is the league average over the past two seasons. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but players who are bad at shooting, usually aren’t good at shooting 3-pointers. 

Digging into the tracking data gives us more answers on Martin’s 3-point shooting. He essentially never took very tight (0-2 feet) or tightly (2-4 feet) contested 3-pointers. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it means his 3-point shooting isn’t spacing the floor.

Martin only took 0.4 open (4-6 feet) 3-pointers per game and hit 31.3% of them. It’s on wide-open (6+ feet) 3-pointers where Martin did the majority of his damage, taking 1.7 per game and hitting 37.1%. The league shot 38.1% on open threes this past season, meaning he has been a below-league-average 3-point shooter when shot quality is taken into account. 

dark. Related. Houston Rockets: Why the Rockets have been better with Kenyon Martin Jr

The final bit of bad news for Martin’s offensive production is when he did his damage. Martin was an absolute monster in low leverage situations. In 310 minutes of low leverage basketball, Martin shot 68.1% on 2-pointers and 51.5% on 3-pointers. 

Low leverage minutes count in the box score the same as high leverage situations but are almost universally disregarded in the analytics community. The reason is simple, when one team has a massive lead and the game is nearing an end, their starters come out, and the objective goes from scoring and preventing points to running out the clock. 

Martin made the most of his low leverage minutes, but when the game was in balance and the opposition fiercer, his efficiency deteroriated. In all non-low leverage minutes, he shot 60.1% on 2-pointers and 31.9% on 3-pointers. 

In short, Martin’s offensive efficiency on the surface looked exceptional because he was excellent at harvesting low-hanging fruit. He got fed easy shots around the rim, took and hit wide-open threes, and when the other team was running out the clock, he was filling up the stat sheet. Even if his offensive production is somewhat of a mirage, it doesn’t tank his value if he is also a lockdown defender.