Kenyon Martin Signing Proving to Be a Fantastic Move by New York Knicks Brass

Ciaran Gowan@@CiaranGowanContributor IIIMarch 25, 2013

After only 11 games, K-Mart has emerged as a big part of the Knicks' D.
After only 11 games, K-Mart has emerged as a big part of the Knicks' D.Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The New York Knicks didn't do too much at the NBA Trade Deadline, but the one move they made has worked out well so far.

After trading Ronnie Brewer to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Knicks picked up Kenyon Martin as a free agent, filling their need of a back-up power forward.

With Martin being a 35-year-old who hadn't played since May, it was a risky move for New York, but it has clearly paid off. The forward has moved on from two 10-day contracts to sign for the rest of the season, and has emerged as a key part of Mike Woodson's rotation.

Just as he did with the Los Angeles Clippers late last season, K-Mart has brought defense and toughness to the Big Apple, and clearly has a chip on his shoulder after remaining unsigned for so long.

Looking at the way he's played so far, Martin definitely has a point. It's amazing that someone who's still a quality NBA role player managed to stay a free agent until mid-February.

Like the J.R. Smith signing last February, Martin has given the Knicks a late-season boost, and has helped them get over the hump. Before his emergence, the team was on a bad run of form, but has since gone 5-3 in games that he has played more than 20 minutes, despite both Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler missing significant time.

Most notably, Martin's impact has been seen in New York's current four-game win streak. With Chandler out, he's stepped up as the starting center—despite standing at only 6'9"—and has done a brilliant job.

In those four games, Martin averaged 14.3 points and 7.5 boards, along with a block and 1.3 steals. To boot, he has also been shooting an insane 76 percent from the field, making big plays on both ends of the floor.

Looking at the entirety of his month-long tenure with the Knicks, Martin's advanced stats are at a level we've never seen from him before. He is posting career highs in offensive rating, win shares per 48 minutes and true shooting percentage. His PER of 18.1 is also significantly above his career number of 15.2.

For a player making only $270,000 this season, Martin has to be one of the best value for money players in the league. To come in and earn such a big role, at a time the Knicks really needed it, has been great to watch.

A lot of Martin's success can be pinned down to the fact that he's played with a lot of these Knicks before. With the New Jersey Nets and Denver Nuggets, he played alongside Jason Kidd, Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, Raymond Felton, Marcus Camby and James White.

He may not be the star he once was in New Jersey, but Martin is certainly resurrecting his career with his play for New York. His defense is still at an elite level, and he still has that uncanny knack of making an impact with blocked shots and put-backs.

After sitting out more than half the season, Martin won't have to worry about finding a suitor next season. The league now knows he's still a capable role player, and the Knicks will have a non-Bird exception to pay him a little more than $2 million next year if they want him back.

For the time being, however, Martin has done enough to earn a starting role in N.Y. When Chandler returns to the center spot, Martin should start alongside him at the 4, with Melo reverting to small forward. This solidifies the defense, and relieves the pressure on Anthony to guard bigger players every night.

Ultimately, this is a deal that has worked out well for both parties. The Knicks have found the spark they needed to get back on track, and Martin has welcomed the chance to prove himself once again.

When the playoffs come around, there's no doubt that Martin will play a major role. He always steps up when it matters most, and just last season was a major part of the Clippers team that made it to the Western Conference semi-finals.

If he can keep up this level of play to close out the season, he'll go a long way to helping this Knicks team make some serious noise in the East.

All stats are from Basketball-Reference, and are accurate as of March 25, 2013.