Via Yahoo! Sports:
The NBA season is nearly a week old, and Kenyon Martin doesn't know why he still can't find a job in the league.
Considering where Kenyon Martin's career was just a week ago, the statement above seems absurd to me. Kenyon Martin, by all accounts a solid double-double type player, suddenly finds himself utterly jobless, while guys like Troy Murphy are still able to hang on.
You could consider a number of reasons. The NBA is becoming a faster game, and teams are opting to go small. There's lots of foreign prospects coming to the league, further lowering the number of jobs. Still, it's a puzzling plight.
For those of you who don't know, Kenyon Martin's career took a nosedive during last year's lockout. He, along with fellow Nugget J.R. Smith, signed in China under the agreement that they wouldn't return to the NBA until their stint in the CBA was over. J.R. Smith encountered a number of problems, but they were mostly about money and comfort. Kenyon Martin's problems were different entirely, as he averaged a mere 14 points and 7 rebounds for the Xinjang Flying Tigers. These stats would be all well and good in the NBA, or even for a Chinese player in the CBA. But with Martin commanding a huge salary and taking up a valuable roster spot (as each CBA team is allowed only two foreigners), it was clear that he had to go. Martin was cut mid-season, and went back to the NBA in February.
But the story there wasn't too much better. Though he signed for a respectable 2.5 Million with the Clippers, his production was clearly down. Pretty much every stat that he put up hit the crapper, and he went from a borderline starter to an okay backup who only showed flashes of his former greatness. He wasn't re-signed by the Clippers, who basically replaced him with Ronny Turiaf.
Still, the question remains: Why is Kenyon Martin still sitting in the free agent pool? Even though he's not the player he once was, he could certainly help a team that's looking for a backup big. Especially considering some of the bad players floating out there today. And I can't think of a team that's more in need of a backup Center than the Oklahoma City Thunder.
If I had told you a year ago that the Thunder would have Hasheem Thabeet and Daniel Orton as their backup centers, you would have laughed in my face. Yet, here we sit. At the end of last season, Sam Presti let Nazr Mohammed walk because it was Cole Aldrich's time to shine. I was comfortable with that, but with the James Harden trade, this left the Thunder giving minutes to off-season acquisition Hasheem Thabeet.
Now, is Thabeet bad? Well, let me put it this way. He's not good. He has length, and he's done some positive things. He can grab a few rebounds, but I've seen better rebounders. He might luck into tipping a pass or blocking a shot because of his arm length. He can defend alright, but he doesn't really have the bulk or athleticism to match up well with anyone. And his offense is pretty much nada beyond basic putbacks or layups. This type of player, given limited minutes, can get by unnoticed. He might have a decent game here or there, but it's doubtful that he could ever affect much in the grand scheme of things.
But, let's look beyond Thabeet's 8-10 minutes a game for a second. What do the Thunder do if Kendrick Perkins goes down? He's been plagued by injuries lately, finishing last year's playoffs with a groin tear, missing pre-season games due to that same groin tear, and twisting his ankle during the season opener at San Antonio. It's not guaranteed that Perk will go down, but it's a distinct possibility. And in that situation, we could literally have Hasheem Thabeet grabbing 20 minutes a game. 20 minutes of no offense, and no ball handling ability whatsoever. Moreover, the Thunder might even give minutes to Daniel Orton, who has been a unanimous NBA disappointment, so much so that the Magic never gave him a call back after last season.
Given this situation, why in the world are the Thunder not jumping on this opportunity and giving Kenyon Martin a call? Heck, just give him one workout, or one practice to prove that he can school Hasheem Thabeet. Yes, the man might have chemistry problems, and the Thunder generally only sign guys that align with their philosophy. But didn't we just acquire Perry Jones and Hasheem Thabeet, two guys who have had their motivation to play questioned? And for Pete's sake, we're not talking about Allen Iverson or Latrell Sprewell. Martin might have had some disagreements, but there's worse hires in the NBA. And yeah, his production didn't look so hot last year. But again, didn't we just trade for Kevin Martin, who saw a huge dip in stats last year as well?
I know what you might be thinking. "What does 8-10 minutes off the bench matter? Shouldn't we be more concerned about replacing James Harden?" Both of those are valid points. The Thunder's ball handling has suffered, even with Eric Maynor returning to the lineup. But you can make up for it in other areas, and I think Kenyon Martin could do that, even in limited minutes.
Look at it this way. Nick Collison is solid, in every sense of the word. He will provide consistent play at a certain level, can be a great defender in a pinch, and knows the game inside out. But he's just not an X-Factor. He rarely eclipses 10 points or 10 rebounds, and he's the most hesitant shooter around. He can't create for himself, and he rarely scores off of a rebound.
Kenyon Martin could provide the things Nick Collison can't. He can be a semi-viable scoring option on a night where he has a matchup advantage. He has the bulk to back his defender down, while Collison only scores off of cuts to the basket. He has decent range, and a jumper that's at least as consistent as Ibaka's. Most of all, there are nights where he could be his former self, drop a double-double, and provide that extra push to help the Thunder win games. And, when you get right down to it, he pretty much eclipses Hasheem Thabeet in every sense of the word (except height....and length).
I'm not saying that he would replace Collison by any means, nor am I saying the signing is without risk. There are nights where he goes 1 of 6 or 0 of 4. Sometimes he struggles to rebound, or defend. He might have chemistry issues in the locker room. He might not be able to rent a nice apartment in Oklahoma City. He might get toilet paper stuck to his shoe. Who knows?
The bottom line is, this is a low-risk, high reward proposition. The Thunder have a 15th roster spot totally open right now, and they have the cap space to sign a minimum contract. I know that the last spot is supposed to be for the 66ers, but honestly, most of the Thunder's 66er prospects have moved on. Nobody on that roster is exciting right now. And no past 66er acquisition has ever made more than a minute impact.
There's a point to following the "develop from within" philosophy, and it's worked before. But there's always been support from veterans, whether it be on or off the court. And if the Thunder can afford to waste a roster spot on the ghost of Derek Fisher, surely 32 year old Kenyon Martin is worth a look.
What do you think? Would you give Kenyon Martin a call? Let us know in the comments!
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