Lakers Rumors: Kenyon Martin Would Be Huge Step Forward for LA's Defense

Stephen BabbFeatured ColumnistAugust 7, 2012

DENVER, CO - APRIL 18:  Kenyon Martin #2 of the Los Angeles Clippers prepares for action against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on April 18, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. The Clippers defeated the Nuggets 104-98. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers have been rumored as a possible destination for combo-guard Leandro Barbosa, but general manager Mitch Kupchak could be in the market to fortify his frontline as well.

Sports Illustrated's Sam Amick reports that Kenyon Martin may have interest in remaining in L.A. after a brief stint with the Clippers last season. This time, though, he could be switching sides and playing for an actual contender.

But sources said the 34-year-old power forward is holding up this later stage of the hiring process for frontcourt free agents, with the Lakers and the Nets among the teams he's considering and negotiation leverage seemingly gone because so many of his colleagues seem willing to take minimum deals.

After re-signing Jordan Hill and bringing Antawn Jamison into the mix, it's hard to imagine where Martin's minutes would come from. They would have been limited to begin with playing behind center Andrew Bynum and power forward Pau Gasol. 

Nevertheless, there are a few good reasons to give Martin a chance, even if the 5.2 points and 4.3 rebounds he averaged in 42 games with the Clippers last season weren't especially impressive numbers.

At this point in his career, Martin isn't about the numbers.

His mid-range game isn't especially consistent, and he never did much with his back to the basket. As his first step lost some quickness, that face-up game wasn't so hot either. Martin can still score a few points, but that's hardly his calling card.

Instead, the energetic big man brings a defensive toughness to the table.

Given Los Angeles' most pressing needs, Martin would be a nice fit. The Lakers ranked 15th in points allowed last season, and they've done nothing to improve their roster on that end of the floor thus far.

Jamison is a dangerous perimeter scorer, and we all know what Steve Nash can do.

But neither of those guys will impact games defensively. If anything, they're a liability. Martin would be a quicker alternative to Jordan Hill and more defensively minded than Jamison. Surely head coach Mike Brown could find him some minutes in that context.

Martin isn't huge, but he's still explosive enough to block some shots. In fact, he averaged one a game last season despite playing just 22.4 minutes a contest. And, Martin has always had quick hands and a penchant for disrupting action in the lane one way or the other.

The other nice thing about adding Martin is that he'd give Kupchak greater flexibility to further tweak the roster in the near future. 

Sometimes collecting assets is a smart move in its own right. There may be five guys to line up at the 4 and 5 positions right now, but that doesn't mean that will remain the case.

The Lakers' bench is already improved, but legitimate defensive presence would mean more than depth alone for this club. It would also solve a problem that no amount of scorers will change.