First of all, let's be honest. The players who have recorded minutes in Martin's stead have played with basketballs out. Although there have been downs to go with the ups, Udrih, Greene, Casspi, Udoka and Rodriguez* have brought a LOT to the table.
The turnaround of Beno Udrih has been well documented. In the royal doghouse all last year along with K9, Udrih has planted himself firmly in the MIP race with an incredible 16.08 PER--right there along with Brandon Jennings and others.
Sergio Rodriguez, who would be much further down the depth chart if Udrih and Evans were not on the court together as much, has put up an even better PER a 16.55--ahead of guys like Nate Robinson, Jose Calderon, Brandon Jennings and others. And dead even with some dude named Derrick Rose.
Ime Udoke. What can you say about him? The guy was unemployed to start the season. The Kings went with Desmond Mason as they tipped off the year, but his replacement is the guy who is turning heads. He is no All-Star, but he is *very* good at being a defensive stopper. And he almost single-handedly fueled the final surge in the unforgettable comeback against the Chicago Bulls.
Donte Greene has put on his "man shoes" this season. Last year, he could be quite the show, but this season his game has grown exponentially. With his extreme length he is growing into a defensive stopper but he also has the ability to put up 20 points in a game (4 so far). With his athletic 6'11" frame he is playing anywhere from the 2 to the 4.
And everyone of course knows about Omri Casspi. He is the other rookie who has been scoring, rebounding, and playing energetic defense so well that people are already saying the Kings draft class is one of the best of the decade. He spends most of his time on the wing playing small forward, but between his time at SG and Donte Greene's likelihood of playing a lot more SF with Martin in the lineup, he is affected by Martin's injury as well.
As frequently stated, we all know how well these guys have played. But none of them are Kevin Martin. None of them have scored 22+ ppg since September 2006. None of them have a TS% over .600 like Martin has had for 3 seasons running. And no one is even sniffing the amount of free throw attempts that Martin gets. Since 2006, Martin has been a dead-eye shooter who can hit threes, drive the lane and pick up fouls at a ridiculous rate. And never have the Kings needed that kind of shooter more than their most recent slide.
Losers of 7 of their last 8 games, the Kings have taken 2 games against top teams to overtime. They took a 2-point lead against the Lakers in another game into the final 4 seconds. With 1:00 left against the Phoenix Suns they were down by 2 with possession when they couldn't get a shot to fall even with 2 offensive rebounds. And they couldn't put the nail in the coffin against the Warriors last night when they had a lead of 18 in the 3rd quarters. For the final 5 minutes to the last 10 seconds, the Kings managed only 1 point.
So how would Kevin Martin's presence have changed the last couple weeks? The slide came immediately after the comeback against the Bulls to put them at 13-14, one game below .500. First, the Kings could not get a shot off at the end of regulation against the Cavs. Then they couldn't score in overtime against them. Then the Kings couldn't make a shot at the end of regulation against the Lakers to win it. They go on a 7-0 run to start OT and then they are outscored 18-2 when no one could get a shot to fall. After an unlikely win against the Nuggets, the Kings cannot get an offensive run going in the 4th against the Sixers and they fall by 10. Again, a heartbreaking loss to the Lakers as the offense stagnates in the 4th. Still they could have made it out if they had a dead-eye free throw shooter get the ball in the final seconds. Martin anyone? Against the Mavericks, the entire offense stagnated and still it was only an 8-point game. Kings had the chance in Phoenix and dropped the ball with a minute left. And we know about last night.
So what would be different for the Kings if Kevin Martin were playing the past 2 weeks? How could the team's fortunes be changed? Would the Kings be closer to 4 games over .500 rather than 7 games below? Would people be talking about how the Kings were able to knock off the Cavs, the Suns and then the Lakers twice to go along with a win in Denver and the comeback win in Chicago. Instead of people talking about the Kings on a tough streak, would they be talking about the amazing streak Sacramento's Royal Purple squad is on as they continue to knock of division leader after division leader? Or would the losses have come, but just in different fashion?
The real questions behind this is:
Just how close are the Kings to being a force? Are they one All-Star caliber shooting guard away from being a team that can beat any team on any given night? Can we perhaps look back, 18 months from now, and say the Kings went streaking in the middle of January 2010 and never looked back. Will we be able to say that the final half of the 09-10 season was just the kickstart for the 10-11 season when Sacramento raised itself from the 3-year doldrums to be a legitimate contender in the West?
Those are the questions behind the question:
What does Kevin Martin do for the Kings?
*Note: Obviously some of these guys do not play SG, but with the versatility of the team (specifically Evans and Greene but Casspi and Udrih as well), all would have very different minutes if Speed were healthy and playing.