After last season when Kevin Martin came off the bench for the Oklahoma City Thunder and played poorly in the playoffs, few thought he would return to being one of the NBA’s best scoring guards. He has found a perfect fit with the Minnesota Timberwolves and his former coach Rick Adelman, though, and is back to averaging over 20 points per game.
Before signing Martin this offseason, the Timberwolves had a serious lack of perimeter scoring. Sure Kevin Love could knock down the occasional three, but the Wolves’ best scorers, Love and center Nikola Pekovic, worked mostly down low. Unlike in Oklahoma City where Martin was meant to replace James Harden as the team’s sixth man and instant offense off the bench, Martin found a role he truly excels in in Minnesota. He is one of the Wolves’ main offensive threats, averaging 23.2 points per game, good for second on the team behind Love’s 23.7 points per game.
The Thunder used Martin primarily as a spot up shooter which is something he’s good at, but relying on a pass to get a shot when playing with a scoring point guard like the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook meant he didn’t get as many shots as he would have liked. Now, playing with a true pass-first point guard in Ricky Rubio and a skilled passing big man in Love, Martin is getting plenty of open looks. He’s averaging 2.5 made three pointers per game on 44.1 percent shooting from downtown, and both of those figures are career highs.
Those three point numbers will likely drop off a bit, but it’s clear Martin is in a much better position than he was last year. Adelman is using him effectively, and Martin has also earned a good number of points getting to the line. He’s great at drawing contact and even better at shooting free throws. Right now he’s averaging 6.4 free throws attempted per game and sinking 93.9 percent of them.
A bigger role with a familiar coach has done wonders for Martin, and Timberwolves fans have to hope he keeps it up. With nearly a quarter of the season done it’s clear Martin’s improvement isn’t just a fluke. He should be in the All-Star conversation this year, especially if the Wolves can start winning more games.