Kenyon Martin Jr.’s Defense
Listed at 6’6, Martin has played the majority of his NBA minutes at power forward with some small forward mixed in. He has defensive versatility in the broadest sense, but his defensive utility remains a question and presents him with an uphill battle to become a positive contributor on that end.
The Rockets' defensive rating declined from 117.1 to 118.5 with Martin on the court, and that’s with a 108.7 defensive rating in 310 low leverage minutes factored in. Most troublesome, opponents saw their 2-point shooting efficiency improve from 55.9% to 58.5%. However, opponents did see their 3-point shooting decrease from 35.8% to 34.6% with him on the court.
Martin’s block percentage of 2.2% ranked a solid 46th in the NBA, but his 1.1 blocks per 100 possessions was 69th. He isn’t a poor shot blocker, but when his height and opponent 2-point shooting are taken into account, it’s clear he isn’t a pure shot-stopper or rim deterrent.
Martin also wasn’t adept at snagging steals. His 1% steal rate was 149th in the NBA, and his steals per 100 possession was 195th. Add in his lukewarm defensive rebounding rate of 14.5% (a fraction of a percent greater than Steph Curry’s 14.4%), and at this stage of his career, Martin is pretty clearly a net negative defensively.
Some of the physical attributes that he possesses, elite vertical burst and a high motor, portend defensive potential, but it hasn’t manifested on the court in a meaningful way. The tweener profile of a small power forward is a difficult defensive profile to make work at the NBA level.
It requires a player to make up for size limitations through positioning, toughness, and effort. Martin improving in those areas, or flashing better perimeter defense to be trusted guarding starting quality wings would dramatically alter his career trajectory. However, at this point, he lacks those characteristics.