We Need to Talk About Kevin (Martin)
“Didn’t I see you on the floor last night?” I asked Kevin Martin.
“Nope.” The words fell dejectedly to the floor.
“That’s odd...” I said under my breath. I had sworn that I had seen him on the court. Was it just my imagination? “By the way,” I continued, hoping for the worst, “are you going to play Friday?”
A long pause ensued.
“Why?” he said. And he looked away, to the wall. It was as barren as his emotion.
“I just thought we would do something together. We’re a team. You’re part of the family, Kevin.” I pleaded.
“Do what?” He responded. For all it was worth, the wall could have been a better conversationalist.
“Maybe shoot some hoops, go out for dinner, hit the club.” My voice quivered. Like a guitar string buzzing out of tune.
“Okay.” he said. And he picked up his lunch, turned and disappeared.
This scene from the dark psyco-drama We Need To Talk About Kevin illustrates a picture that Kevin Martin may be going through. He didn’t get traded to a winning team, and now he’s hoping a buyout can get him out of this situation. A capable player who isn’t playing. And when he does, he plays poorly.
The Wolves started the year with a plan to bring in veterans to help mentor their youth. That idea has survived, to some extent, but as far as actual court production from these veterans? It has been a rocky road. Tayshawn Prince has been the most consistent veteran who gets playing time. He contributes positively defensively but isn’t much of a threat otherwise. Andre Miller probably was more an off-the-court guy with the young guards. He now has been bought out for close to a million dollars and has signed with San Antonio. Miller will probably end up coaching there after Pop retires. Kevin Garnett (The main Kevin on the Wolves) has been nursing a sore knee. That is actually just a veil for Gorgui Dieng and Karl Anthony-Towns to get playing time.
And alas, Nikola Pekovic is still injured. His Achilles injury takes a long time to recover from. After a month of sporadically playing, Pekovic felt discomfort in his foot, which according to the Wolves is natural, but he is now sidelined until further notice.
Which finally brings me to Kevin Martin. The shooting guard that has played with Minnesota the last two years after signing a four-year $28 million contract. Last year he missed over half the season with nagging injuries. This year he has only played in 39 of the 60 games due to more injuries and a lot of trade related DNP-CD’s. Martin is a curious case. The T-Wolves are currently holding on to the 5th worst record. Philly, The Lakers, Phoenix, and Brooklyn all have worse records with 20 or so games left. Playing Martin in close games (Or even not so close games) may help the team win games. Something fans enjoy. But on the other hand… that inherently reduces Minnesota’s chance at a better lottery pick. But let’s be honest, Kevin Martin isn’t going to move the needle much in terms of wins most nights. His WS/48 (Win Shares per 48 minutes) are .049. In other words he contributes to a win about 5% of the time. That number has fallen dramatically. Over 100 points since his one season in OKC. His defensive metrics also pan out as one word: miserable. The eye test validates this. He has no intention to ever rebound. His go-to moves are not as clean as they used to be. He doesn’t get separation as well, and his 3pt consistency is way out-of-wack. His form always throws me a loop, so it’s hard to judge if something mechanically is amiss. As someone who watched him in OKC intently, and caught many games his two first years here in Minnesota, I have seen him go from “elite” level shooting to merely average. He might be able to get some defenders to bite with his nifty, crafty game, but he definitely cannot play pick and roll defense or stay in front of about 90 percent of NBA players on the wing. He gives up points on the defensive side of the ball. His FG% and eFG% have fallen this year, yet he still clocks out as a better 3pt shooter than most of the Wolves roster. At this point he is kind of wasted space on the roster. A poor defender and a declining offensive threat. He still has something to offer, to a team out there.
Before the trade deadline, Martin requested a trade. The Wovles honored this and began not playing him while trying to find a new home. From what I’ve witnessed in his game this season, they were probably embarrassed to play a player which would bring his trade value down. Unfortunately for Minnesota, this is the age of information, and no other team took the bait. From what I can speculate, and this is true left-fieldism at its absolute best, teams around the NBA did not want to take on Martin’s $7 million cap hold for this year and $7.4 million for next year while giving up even second round picks or match salaries with other players. Who wants a 33 year old vet who is trending down in all statistical categories with $14 million guaranteed?
The answer is nobody. And the buyout window was approaching faster everyday.
Now that the deadline has come and gone, the only other option is a buyout. The two parties are discussing a buyout for Martin, just as they did with Andre Miller. For those of you who are not familiar with what a buyout entails, here are the steps of a buyout.
1) Player and owner decide this action –
a. Lump sum buyout
b. Player gets remaining year’s contract paid to him over X years. This X years sticks on previous team’s cap space and that team cannot re-sign him during this time.
2) If agreed upon, team waives the player, player then enters NBA waiver period
a. If he is ‘picked up’ on waivers, new team must pay current year’s salary and remaining contract.
b. If player ‘passes’ waivers, any team is able to sign him (barring original team) as a free agent
3) After passing waivers, player and owner commit to terms of payment and player is able to sign a new contract with new team.
In THIS situation, if Martin is waived before the end of today, he can sign with a playoff team and be eligible for the playoffs. If he isn’t, well he cannot play in the playoffs. A non-playoff team can still sign him
Next year, he will likely be a Free Agent and sign a smaller contract in the range of $3 to $5 million and could fit into Mid-Level Exception status for some teams. Who knows?
So who would be interested in Martin?
Miami just signed Joe Johnson, Golden State signed Anderson Varejao, Dallas signed David Lee, Oklahoma City has an open spot, but they traded for Randy Foye, so they’re likely out, Cleveland might be interested, but I’m not sure. Atlanta might be, but they wanted Joe Johnson. LA Clippers traded for Jeff Green and probably won’t go for another wing player. Portland? Maybe. An East team may take a shot at this. Chicago could use a shooter, but they’re full on roster. Houston, back with a team he used to play with although now is an entirely different supporting cast, could be an option too. Time will tell, but I expect this buyout to happen very soon.
This will move Minnesota, more importantly, into a new direction. Gone will be the salary spent on Martin, and his departure will clear up space for their core to earn what they deserve, long-term. Pekovic is still on the books through this year, next year, and the year after that. His injury concerns are not ideal, but he can still provide help off the bench. He may be a buyout candidate next year, if his condition doesn’t improve much. Wiggins, LaVine, Towns, are the focus of the core, and the future of this team too.
There, now that we’ve talked about Kevin, let’s talk about Ben Simmons (Or other prospect in the 2016 NBA draft).