Kevin Martin: Not a Chucker

Most around here know I'm a devout parishoner in The Church of Kevin Martin. I called him 'untouchable' on February 6, 2006. He has gotten much, much better since. For example, as of today, Martin is #11 in the league in PER. Only eight guards have shot better. Only seven players score more per-minute, and one player scores more per game.  Three players have drawn more fouls per shot attempt.

Yet someone out there -- Steve Weinman of MVN's The NBA Source -- has the... audacity? lack of perspective? thirst for punishment? to write the following.

The fact that Kevin Martin is quickly gaining star status in this league is wholly disquieting to me. ... [H]is game going to the rim leaves a lot to be desired, as Martin isn't particularly tough to nudge off course without a foul being called, and he often winds up throwing up contested off-balance shots that miss badly. This wouldn't be such a problem if Martin could understand his limitations and settle into role of being a shooter.  However, on a team in need of all the help it can get, and for a guy trying to make a name for himself, that apparently isn't an option.  Martin tries to attack the rim far too much for his own good, and, oh yeah, he doesn't do the whole passing thing. ... He looks to shoot it as soon as he gets it, no matter where he is on the floor, regardless of the positioning of the defense.  Despite the decent shooting and scoring numbers, the only descriptive word that comes to mind watching him on offense is chucker.

I know, I lost all of you who actually watch Martin and the Kings somewhere around the second sentence. Go ahead, compose yourself. Think of the bird flu and serial puppy kicker or Kenny Thomas to keep yourself from laughing. Better? Okay. Let's um, address this.

Kevin Martin does not shoot that much.
Among the top 10 per-game scorers in the league, only Richard Jefferson shoots fewer FGAs per game. A chucker would be someone who takes a ton of shots to get a bunch of points. Someone like Baron Davis perhaps, who takes 21 FGAs a game to get 23 points. Kevin Martin is very literally the opposite -- he takes comparatively few shots to get a bunch of shots. And this is not specific to this season; last year, two 20-point scorers averaged fewer than 14 FGAs per game -- Amare Stoudemire and Kevin Martin. Martin has always been known as an efficient scorer, not a volume scorer. To state otherwise shows a lack of understanding of Kevin Martin's game.

"Martin tries to attack the rim far too much for his own good?" Please.
As I said above, three players have a better 'free throws per FGAs' rate than Martin this season -- Dwyane Wade, Kyle Lowry and Sean Williams. Are free throws not a good result from driving to the rim for an 85% free throw shooter? Martin broke the Sacramento-era record for most made free throws in a season last year; he is on pace to break Tiny Archibald's franchise record this season. No one in the NBA has made more free throws this season. No one in the NBA has averaged more made free throws per game this season. I'd venture up to 75% of Martin's trips to the free throw line come off... attacks on the rim. Again, Weinman writes: "[H]e often winds up throwing up contested off-balance shots that miss badly. This wouldn't be such a problem if Martin could understand his limitations and settle into role of being a shooter." No. He often winds up drawing a foul and hitting two from the line. This is not a problem, as Martin understands his abilities and has not relegated himself into a strict role as a shooter. If he had, this team would be even more of a disaster.

Kevin Martin is not one-dimensional.
According to John Hollinger's rebound rate numbers on ESPN.com, Martin has been a better rebounder this year than a few highly-touted excellent all-around players... Kevin Durant and Brandon Roy. In fact, his rebounding has slipped a bit this year -- he's been playing long minutes and due to a high usage rate hasn't been a factor on the offensive boards. But this is new. In his player preview for Martin, Hollinger noted Martin was an above-average rebounder for his position last year. And no, he doesn't rack up assists. You might notice no one on the Kings does. Does that mean everyone on the Kings shoots it as soon as they touch it? In some cases (John Salmons, Francisco Garcia), yes. In Martin's case? No. If he's doubled, he passes out. If he has a bad matchup, he passes. If a teammate has a better matchup, he passes. One of the chief concerns among Sacramento fans this year has been that Martin defers too much. One more time from Hollinger, in his recent column on the surprises of the league: "[U]nlike a lot of big-time scorers, he never takes a bad shot." This is not shocking information to Kings fans; when he doesn't have a good look, he passes the ball. Again, he doesn't rack up assists. But he passes the damn ball plenty. Sometimes, I wish he would stop.


Looking at the top scorers list and finding a name you don't know much about shouldn't be cause to call said scorer 'a chucker' who hurts his team and doesn't deserve to be considered a star. No one in the league scoring at Martin's rate is as efficient, save scorching hot Manu Ginobili, scorching hot Richard Jefferson, and scorching hot Ray Allen. And you know what? Any Kings fan would tell you Martin is not scorching hot right now. He's setting all these efficiency standards but we've seen him much hotter over the past two years. We who watch him 80 times a year, we've only been astounded by one Kevin Martin game this season (the first three quarters of Friday's Knicks game). What he's doing right now, it's not a surprise. We've seen it since the beginning of 2006, night after night. He's just get more opportunities now, and he's making the most of it. Just because he's a top scorer on a bad team does not mean he's a chucker.

Sometimes, you have to... watch basketball? look beyond the cover? research stuff? before making ridiculously contrarian statements. If you don't, you run the risk -- as Mr. Weinman has -- of being completely, undoubtedly, laughably wrong.

(Thanks to J.E. Skeets for sending out the Bat signal on this one.)

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