Late Wednesday evening after another frustrating Timberwolves loss, their eighth in nine games, the Associated Press's Jon Krawczynski reported something that surprised few frequent followers of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
AP Source: With Zach LaVine exhibiting scoring chops and Andrew Wiggins also playing SG, #TWolves now looking to trade Kevin Martin.— Jon Krawczynski (@APkrawczynski) December 17, 2015
Re: Kevin Martin: Wolves need to free up more wing time for LaVine, Muhammad, Wiggins. And w/8 losses in 9 gms, time to do something— Jon Krawczynski (@APkrawczynski) December 17, 2015
Krawczynski hits the nail on the head in that second tweet. With three of the key young cogs in the Timberwolves' rotation looking for time at the 2, Martin's current role as the starter was untenable as soon as he moved back into the starting lineup to replace Tayshaun Prince. Prince returned to the lineup to start last night's game, but it remains increasingly clear to many observers that the Wolves' most potent lineup (at least on offense) features LaVine at the 2 and Wiggins at the 3.
Martin has had a rough year. He has been shooting well below average, has struggled again with a wrist injury after missing significant time last season with a broken wrist, and his art of getting to the free throw line appears to be fading. He has a player option for 2016-17 for $7.3 million that, based on his current form, he is unlikely to not activate, regardless of the state of NBA salaries in the summer of 2016. Martin looks like a player on the tail end of his career, and keeping that safe paycheck after a down year makes a ton of sense for him personally.
The Wolves now publicly want to move Martin. The question is, who really wants him? Martin's reputation has long been that of a scorer and not much of a defender, and that has shown no signs of changing in his twelfth NBA season. He is an effective shooter from 3 for his career (38.5%, but only 34.8% this season), and for better or worse, finds ways to create his own shot, which remains a useful skill.
The most common, totally un-sourced rumor for a destination has been the Sacramento Kings, where Martin was drafted and spent the first five-plus seasons of his career. The Kings are in win-now mode, and therefore might be looking to add a veteran scorer to their bench. If the Timberwolves can turn Martin into yet another young player full of potential like, say, Ben McLemore, they would have to seriously consider the possibility. (Fun Sacramento fact: Demarcus Cousins is second on the team in attempts from beyond the arc per game with 4.1.)
Another amusing possibility is the Cleveland Cavaliers, who could yet assemble a larger number of former Wolves. The Cavaliers have a trade exception large enough to fit Martin's contract into, and a move to a serious contender like the Cavs would be a nice opportunity for Martin to chase a ring. It would be unlikely that the Wolves would be able to get much useful back, but it would be a way to get Martin's salary and minutes off the books.
Realistically, the Wolves will not get much for Martin. While still a very useful basketball player in the right setting, he is clearly on the back end of his career, and will not be truly successful without that right setting. However, to consider a Wolves team without Martin taking up the 26 minutes per game he currently occupies frees up more time for many lineups and players that need the time on the court to flourish. It is in the best interests of the franchise's long term future to find a new home for Martin.