Kevin Martin Has Been Even Better Than Advertised for the Minnesota Timberwolves

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Kevin Martin Has Been Even Better Than Advertised for the Minnesota Timberwolves
David Sherman/Getty Images

The Minnesota Timberwolves are already reaping the benefits of Kevin Martin's scoring ability.

Martin spent the 2012-13 season in Oklahoma City, but acted as a third fiddle with the Thunder. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook took care of most of the perimeter scoring, and that left Martin scoring mostly low-stress points.

After signing with the Timberwolves, Martin's efficiency from last season was in question. Everyone knew he could score and could do it at a consistent level, but could he shoot nearly as well without the help of Durant and Westbrook creating shots for him? Minnesota didn't have many other three-point options, and teams would likely focus on him more than any other Timberwolves guard on the perimeter.

11 games into the T'Wolves' season, though, Martin has done more than anyone in Minnesota could have asked for, averaging 24.4 points per game and posting a 59.7 true shooting percentage

He is becoming more efficient as his usage spikes up. That's really not something we ever see in a 30-year-old, high-usage player, but Martin's early production may actually be sustainable—and that has to do with the Timberwolves' offensive style over all else.

At the start of the season, I mentioned the shift we've seen in Martin's game over the past few years. He used to be such a rim-heavy player. He used to go straight at the hoop. But that just doesn't happen anymore.

This year though, about 24 percent of Martin's shots have been in the restricted area. That's up from the past two years, one of which he spent in Oklahoma City shooting catch-and-shoot jumpers off Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant passes. 

It's not that Martin has reinvented himself. That would be quite a reaction after just an 11-game sample size. It's more that the Wolves have helped to reinvent him. Let's remember exactly what type of ball the Wolves play.

Martin isn't really slashing more than usual; that's not happening. He's still carving teams up with jumpers, but Minnesota has been such a dominant transition team that he's getting open shots near the hoop when he gets out running.

According to MySynergySports, he's averaging about twice as many transition field-goal attempts per game as he did last year. And how beautiful has the Timberwolves' transition offense been this season?

That sort of basketball eye candy tends to happen on its own when you take the best rebounder in the league and give him superhuman outlet passing abilities. Kevin Love, please calm down. You're making everyone else look bad.

It's not just Corey Brewer and his leak-out prone style who is benefiting from Love. It's Ricky Rubio, who has developed into one of the NBA's elite transition passers. And it's Martin, who is getting shots he can always knock down.

Martin knows he role in transition and he knows the spots on the court from where he can be most effective. Watch how he is already set in the corner when Ricky Rubio finds him on the break in this play against the Orlando Magic:

Essentially, the Wolves' offense is about moving faster than the defense. That's how they have, according to basketball-reference.com, the the second-fastest pace in the NBA. Even on inbounds passes, Minnesota tries to speed the game up. It works. It always works, and mainly it's because they all just know where to be.

In a purposeful offense, sometimes the best way to succeed is by speeding things up, especially against a naturally discombobulated defense. Right now, the New York Knicks qualify as discombobulated. Right off the outlet pass from Love, Rubio speeds up the game and finds an open Martin on the left side for a good look:

That three from Martin wasn't even on a natural fast break. But that's what this year's Wolves' offense does: It contrives fast breaks.

It's like they run some sort of pathological fast break. That corner three against the Knicks is a transition possession, but it's not what we would call a conventional fast break. Martin has the ball with three Knicks defenders in front of him and with no T'Wolves in sight, but still he's open.

That's the disarray of the defense. It's Rubio being so quick to make decisions that the defenders just can't get set. It's Martin understanding spacing so well, knowing that he shot 50 percent on a high volume of left-corner threes last year and knowing he's already 5-of-7 on those shots this season.

It's not just Martin who has immediately succeeded in the Minnesota transition game. The Wolves are generally showing abnormally competent spacial awareness for a group of players who haven't spent much time playing together.

That goes for Corey Brewer. It goes for all the guys who are coming back from injury.

Usually, we have to give a team of new guys time to learn to play together. Haven't we seen the exact opposite in Minnesota?

Ultimately, Martin is taking just as many jumpers as he has the past few seasons. He hasn't changed much in that aspect.

Through 11 games, 64.6 percent of his field-goal attempts have been jumpers. That's in line with his 65.6 percent jumpers from last year. But the type of looks Martin has been getting is different.

Playing with Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love means fitting into a particular style—that pushing, transition-heavy, pathological fast-break offense. It's only been 11 games, but so far, Martin seems like a perfect fit.

 

Fred Katz averaged almost one point per game in fifth grade, but he maintains that his per-36 minutes numbers were astonishing. Find more of his work at RotoWire.com or on ESPN’s TrueHoop Network at ClipperBlog.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredKatz.

(Unless specified otherwise, all statistics are courtesy of NBA.com and are valid as of November 18.)

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