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Timberwolves Player Preview: Kevin Martin

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As the season approaches, it's time to take a look at the Wolves players and what we might expect from them in the upcoming season. Today's subject: Kevin Martin.

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Kevin Martin
Shooting Guard
31 years old
Contract: 6,792,500 guaranteed for '14-15, 7,085,000 for '15-'16 and 7,377,500 in '16-'17.

"For the past three or four years, I've been riding the coattails of Superstars," Kevin Martin told us, unconvincingly, as he explained the role he's been asked fulfill on the Minnesota Timberwolves this season. This was during Media Day, after Martin made a joke claiming he didn't know Kevin Love was traded until the night before.

His answers didn't seem genuine. This was until Martin told everyone it would have been a disrespect to the game if he "didn't show the first phase of leadership," in reference to his "first of many meetings" with Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine. Later, Martin referred to Wiggins and LaVine as babies.

Martin, 31, is part of the mentorship-by-committee structure implemented within the roster. Although he's on the downslide of his career he remains a very useful and effective player who will be asked to score the basketball a lot this year. Martin has lost a step but he still shoots three pointers well, which helps with floor-spacing. If he's healthy for the entire season, my guess is he'll be starting shooting guard in all 81 games- this is unless LaVine's effectiveness and production exceed expectations.

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Based on Hollinger's Player Efficiency Ratings, Martin's PER (the overall rating of a player's per-minute statistical production) of 16.37 ranked 11th among shooting guards last season. He shot threes at a 39 percent clip- 29 percent of Martin's field goal attempts were three pointers. It was his best year in terms of points scored since the '10-'11 season.

Martin is probably the Wolves best three-point shooter now that Love is gone. He's what is called a 'no-leave' player. Opponents shouldn't leave him open. Not even a little bit.

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Because opponents cannot leave Martin open for three, they may attempt to deny him the ball entirely. Thus, the defense leaves itself susceptible to getting beat with a backdoor, or "V" cut.

Notice Martin, who starts at the top of the image, breaks toward the basket because the defender attempts to prevent him from getting the ball on the wing. Instead, Martin gets open, catches the pass and dunks on Tayshaun Prince. Not bad.

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When Martin is able to obtain the ball outside the arc, his game becomes somewhat stale. He should either be catching and shooting immediately, or making a quick move and attacking the basket. Because Martin has lost a step, he doesn't blow past many people as often as before. Martin's free throw rate (Number of free throw attempts per field goal attempt) last season was 32 percent,16 percent under his career average. Moreover, he was shooting 7.7 free throws per 100 possessions- also below his career average (9.9).

In rather predictable fashion, Martin uses moves like the hesitation dribble, or the pump fake, before driving into the lane and past his defender. Because whoever is guarding him must respect his ability to hit the three-pointer they are often forced to recover, ergo, this is where Martin makes his best effort to get to the free throw line.

Here is one example of what I'm talking about.

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In the example below, even against an above-average defender, Martin is crafty enough to create an open look for himself despite Gordon Hayward cutting him off. Encouraging, because he won't be able to skate by on his talent much longer in his career, and it's fair to expect Martin understands this.

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Especially to younger players, Martin can be tough to defend after he finds a groove during a game. He can bully smaller players with his long torso, and often uses his body to back down defenders en route to the basket. Martin can also hit the turnaround jumper, as we saw above.

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When Flip Saunders spoke at Media Day even he mentioned Martin's defense as something that's subjected to public criticism. Saunders and Glen Taylor have made it clear to Martin they expect him to work hard, and to take it upon himself to be a role model for the younger players. Presumably, the Wolves are going to run some zone defense. Martin will be a beneficiary if they are to do so.

His lateral quickness is a problem. Martin's reach doesn't seem to bother shooters when he is contesting jumpshots. Awareness is also an area of concern. Realistically, the Wolves can't ask him to do an entire lot on the defensive end. He's not a great defender. We get it.

If Kevin Martin can play 32 minutes and get the Timberwolves 20 points a game, he'd be doing his best to help win basketball games. His job is to space the floor, hit threes and get to the free throw line. Martin knows how to do those things.

As far as being a leader, who knows. Martin seems like a good guy who doesn't want to bask in the limelight. He's not going to be a hinderance to any good vibes in the locker room but he's not going to command his will within it either.

Martin has been a solid basketball player throughout his career. That's really all the Timberwolves can ask him to continue doing this year.