Houston Rockets' Kevin Martin Is NBA's Most Underrated Player

Dan BartemusCorrespondent IMarch 8, 2011

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 20:  Kevin Martin #12 of the Houston Rockets in action against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena on December 20, 2010 in Oakland, California. 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 Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

To underrate is to underestimate the extent, value or importance of someone or something.

In athletics, there are worse things to be labeled than underrated, but ultimately, it’s a backhanded slap in the face because what it says is, “you’re really good at what you do, just not good enough for anyone to notice.”

The NBA doesn’t designate an award for the league’s most underrated player, but if it did, Houston Rockets guard Kevin Martin should be the one to take it home.

Martin, a 28-year-old, paper-thin swingman, is 10th in the league in scoring at 23 points per game. Only Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Amar'e Stoudemire, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Monta Ellis, Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard average more.

Outside of Ellis, each played in last month’s All-Star Game and has been in the Most Valuable Player discussion. I’m not advocating for Martin as a player worthy of the MVP, but should he have made the Western Conference All-Star team or at least received some consideration for a reserve spot? Absolutely.

Few are as offensively efficient. He shoots 44 percent from the field, 40 percent from three and a remarkable 89 percent from the charity stripe. Out of the top 10 scorers, only Howard attempts less shots than Martin (13.7 to 15.2), but he also takes three more foul shots per game and averages just one-tenth of a point more.

Rose, who would likely win MVP if the season ended today, averages 20.2 shot attempts to reach his scoring average of 24.6, or 1.6 more than Martin averages on five less shots.

Only Bryant scores more points per 48 minutes, but the two are neck-and-neck. Bryant scores 35.7 to Martin’s 35.1, but does so on an average of 4.7 extra attempts.

Again, Bryant and Rose are a step or two above Martin—no one will argue that. The intent here is to show that he isn’t far out of the NBA’s league of extraordinary gentlemen, especially when you’re talking offense.

He leads the league in free throws made with 460. He’s fourth with 136 three-pointers, just nine off of Jason Richardson and Dorrell Wright’s top total of 145.

Martin averages 1.51 points per shot, a total eclipsed by only three players. In comparison, James averages 1.41, Durant averages 1.40, Stoudemire averages 1.34, Anthony averages 1.29 and Bryant averages 1.28.

One final statistical measure: player efficiency rating. Made famous by ESPN stat guru John Hollinger, PER boils down a player’s total contribution into one number. Any rating 20 or above is All-Star level, and Martin’s stands at 22.46, higher than a third of the West's All-Star team.

The above numbers will astonish even the most faithful NBA fans because hardly anyone outside of Houston acknowledges Martin’s game.

There are reasons for that. For one, the Rockets define mediocrity as they currently sit at 33-32, three games outside of the West's playoff picture.

More importantly, Martin is viewed as a below-average defender, so some would argue that a player who only produces on one end of the court can’t be considered a star.

Fair enough, but that means Dirk Nowitzki, Anthony, Stoudemire, Durant and Steve Nash are no longer in the NBA’s elite group.

And team success clearly doesn’t dictate publicity, because while Martin’s Rockets are middle-of-the-pack, Kevin Love’s Timberwolves and Blake Griffin’s Clippers are flat-out bad, yet both were named All-Stars and receive more national headlines in a week than Martin does in a season.

Martin grew up in the small town of Zanesville, Ohio, and played collegiately at Western Carolina, so he is accustomed to being overlooked and underrated.

It’s time he finally start getting his due.


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