It’s no secret that the Boston Celtics suffer from a lack of interior toughness from their big men in the paint. It’s exactly why gambling on Kenyon Martin could be the one move that increases the team’s postseason stock drastically.
It may sound crazy, but hear me out.
As David Aldridge reported earlier in the week, the Celtics are currently on the lookout for another big man. They've even thrown their recent offseason acquisition Courtney Lee up on the trading block.
However, if Boston were to make a run for one of the league’s top big men, it might cost them a little more than they might be willing to give up. Most likely, any team would request Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger and/or Avery Bradley as collateral.
That’s just not going to happen.
So why not look elsewhere? Somewhere far less expensive?
There are still players out there that the rest of the league has given up on. Players that are considered washed up, past their prime and, simply put, a waste of cap space.
That’s exactly how the rest of the league views Martin.
Sure, the guy’s had his fair share of off-court troubles and injuries. But that doesn’t take away from his on-court abilities.
In his 12 seasons in the league, Martin has led his team to the playoffs in 11 of them.
He may be closing in on his 35th birthday, but the guy can still play.
So let’s breakdown the Celtics' reported link with Martin a little further.
At His Peak
After a sensational college career with Cincinnati—where he was named the Naismith College Player of the Year during his senior year—Martin was selected as the number one overall pick by the New Jersey Nets in the 2000 NBA Draft.
He immediately made a difference in the league.
In 68 games during his rookie season, Martin averaged 12.0 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. His play earned him NBA All-Rookie First Team honors.
Martin would continue his stellar play over the next three seasons.
While averaging 15.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game during the 2001 and 2002 seasons, Martin helped propel the Nets from last place in the division all the way to back-to-back NBA Finals berths. Unfortunately, New Jersey lost both years.
The 2003-04 season was definitely his most productive season of his career.
In 65 games, Martin averaged 16.7 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. His play gained him a spot in the Eastern Conference All-Star team. He finished with 17 points, seven rebounds and three assists in a 136-132 contest won by the Western Conference.
The following season Martin was traded to the Denver Nuggets in return for three future first-round draft picks.
Areas of Concern
During the 2005 season, a problem with Martin’s knee was detected. As a result, he would soon undergo microfracture surgery on his left knee. He would end up missing 26 games of the 2005-06 season.
Martin suffered another setback in November of 2006 when he discovered that there was swelling in his right knee. After playing just two games of the season, Martin would miss the remainder of the year after opting to undergo a second microfracture surgery.
While his defensive prowess remained, a drop in Martin’s scoring production after the injuries was evident. In the six seasons following his initial surgery, Martin’s average dropped to 10.4 points per game.
With a history of injuries to not one but both knees, it’s no surprise why teams are weary of taking a chance on Martin.
Other than injuries, the 12-year veteran’s attitude issues have been worrying to possible suitors, as well.
During the 2006 playoffs with the Nuggets, Martin became upset with his lack of playing time. So much so that he erupted into a profanity-laced tirade against head coach George Karl.
Denver responded by suspending Martin indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team.
Then there was the outrageous incident where Martin was accused of directing a friend to confront a heckling fan. Although Martin denied the allegations, the verbal altercation landed him with a $15,000 fine from the league.
Most recently, there were his issues with Los Angeles Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro. It's possible that was one of the many reasons the Clippers chose not to pursue re-signing Martin during the offseason.
Asked about his negative reputation around the league, Martin seemed to think it was somewhat unwarranted:
"Am I emotional? Yeah, but that’s what made me who I am. Is that too much or did I not do enough? Do I have my flaws? Yes. But have I done things the right way on and off the court? Yeah."
Why it Makes Sense
Should the Celtics gamble on Martin?
As it stands, Bass and Sullinger serve as Boston’s primary two power forwards on their depth chart.
Through 23 games this season, neither has been all that impressive.
Bass is averaging 8.7 points and 5.4 rebounds per game in 27.5 minutes a night. On the other hand, Sullinger is averaging 5.0 points and 5.0 rebounds per game in 17.3 minutes a night.
Those aren’t the kind of numbers the Celtics will be satisfied in receiving from a position they’ve gotten well over 20 points per game from in every season since the 2007-08 campaign.
To make matters worse, the production from the duo dropped to a new low this past week.
In three games against the Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs, Bass averaged just 4.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game in 24.7 minutes a night. Sullinger didn’t fare any better, averaging 3.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in 12.0 minutes a night.
While the latter has the excuse of being a rookie, there is no reason for Bass to be as unproductive as he’s been this season. Especially after averaging 12.5 points and 6.2 rebounds last season.
Bringing in Martin would surely help the team by not only bringing in added depth to the position, but also by providing Boston with a veteran leader at the position. Both his leadership and contributions on the floor could help push Bass and Sullinger to play at higher levels.
Just ask former Clippers GM Neil Olshey what he thinks about Martin’s impact on a team:
"We don’t win the Memphis series [without Martin] and we certainly wouldn’t have finished as high as fifth in the Western Conference without him. His ability to impact the game by guarding multiple positions, switching pick-and-rolls, blocking shots and protecting the rim was an element we really didn’t have and it made us unique. I was thrilled with Kenyon in Los Angeles. He was a good teammate."
Then there are Boston’s deficiencies when it comes to defending the paint.
The Celtics currently rank No. 22 in the league in opponent points in the paint, allowing 42.6 points per game. During Martin’s four seasons in New Jersey, the Nets finished in the top-10 in the category every year.
But don’t forget the impact Martin will have on Boston’s rebounding woes.
Last season with Los Angeles, Martin averaged 2.57 offensive rebounds per 48 minutes. It was the second-highest mark of his career.
It would serve as a much-needed boost for a Celtics team that ranks last in the league with 7.6 offensive rebounds per game. The team also ranks last in total rebounds with 38.6 per game.
Summing it All Up
Say what you might about Martin’s off-court issues. But there’s no doubt he can still handle his own in this league.
It’s just a surprise that no team has given him a chance to prove it.
Bringing in Martin is a low-cost, no risk solution for a Celtics team that is currently in the midst of a three-game losing streak and searching for answers.
A move for the veteran would bare similarities to how Boston utilized aging vets P.J. Brown and Sam Cassell during their 2007-08 magical run.
We all know how that one ended up. Why not give the plan another go?
They certainly have nothing to lose.
You can follow Sebastian on Twitter at @SP7988