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Kevin Martin's Next Leap

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Kevin Martin exceeded all expectations this season. Sam Amick gave Martin a B+ for his season, and that's insane. Go back to October and tell me Martin would finish with 20 ppg on more efficient shooting than last year and fewer turnovers. Every reasonable Martin aficionado would have called you a liar. But Martin did it. And that's B+ material? No way. Martin is the sole Sacramento deservant of a big fat A.

We could spend 2,000 words discussing how brilliant Martin's offense was this year, but it's more important to look forward. Can Martin make another jump next year?

I looked at the numbers for a couple similar players who went through similar situations as Martin is expected to next year. Martin's usage rate - the percentage of a team possessions he used when he was on the court - was slightly higher than average. For every 100 Kings possessions when Martin was on the floor, Martin used 20.8 percent of them. 'Using a possessions' is constituted by a shot, a trip to the line, a turnover, or an assist. For comparison, Mike Bibby had a team-high usage of 22.9 and Francisco Garcia's was a team-low 14.6. All in all, it was a rather balanced team in terms of offensive opportunities.

I think we all expect Martin's usage to make another leap next season. It is virtually assured one of Bibby and Ron Artest will be gone, and very possible both could leave. Unless the team replaces those two top possessions users (Artest had 21.3 usage, second to Bibby) with an unlikely top-flight scorer, Martin will see a significant jump in his usage. This certainly means more points per minute, points per possession, and points per game for Kevin. But does it also mean a loss of efficiency?

I decided to look at two guys who compare rather closely with Martin who've already been through that usage jump: Reggie Miller and Michael Redd. Miller is oft cited as a similar for Martin, Redd not as often. Redd isn't as much of a slasher. He shoots more jumpers than Martin and Miller, which leads to a lesser two-point field goal percentage and a smaller free throw rate, but maintains his efficiency numbers with a high percent on threes. Nonetheless, Redd is the best recent example of an efficient two-guard/small forward making a leap in usage.

I used Miller's 1988-89 season as the base and 1989-90 as his leap year. For Redd, I used 2002-03 as a base and 2003-04 as his leap year. All players (including Martin) were between the ages of 23 and 25 for the years studied.

As the table below shows, all three base years (including Martin's 2006-07) show similar usage and shooting numbers. '3P/FG' is the percent of field goal attempts from behind the arc, so you can see Redd was much more of a deep shooter than the foul-drawing Miller and Martin. Still, all three ended up with very similar true shooting percents on nearly equal usages.

Per 40
Player       Pts   FGA  3P/FG  FTA  2FG%   3FG%   FT%  eFG%   TS%   Usg   PER

Miller 89   18.6  13.1   .294  5.4  .511   .402  .844  .538  .602  19.2  15.7
Redd 03     21.4  16.8   .428  3.2  .492   .438  .805  .562  .590  20.3  21.0  
Martin 07   23.0  15.1   .312  8.1  .515   .381  .844  .533  .614  20.8  20.1

The next season for Miller and Redd correctly saw major boosts in shot frequency, as the table below shows.

Per 40
Player       Pts   FGA  3P/FG  FTA  2FG%  3FG%   FT%  eFG%   TS%   Usg   PER

Miller 90   25.3  16.1   .281  7.9  .552  .414  .868  .572  .645  24.0  20.8
Redd 04     23.5  19.1   .252  5.8  .470  .350  .868  .484  .544  23.6  19.9

Miller saw roughly four extra shooting possessions per 40 minutes come his way (3 FGAs and 2 FTs), while Redd saw three extra shooting possessions per 40. As such, each's usage rate got a big boost (+4.8% for Miller, +3.3% for Redd). How did this affect the quality of those shots? Miller's improved across the board, and he finished third in the league in true shooting. Redd's numbers, though, fell -- considerably in some cases. His three-point shooting dragged down his effective field goal percent and his nice increase in foul-drawing couldn't buoy his true shooting into the upper echleon for wing players. He still had a great season and was Milwaukee's best weapon, but the usage bump didn't help him like it did Miller.

Martin can go either way -- extra shots can mean stardom or continued 'very-good' status. We won't know until next year, when Kevin hopefully gets his chance to take over.

And just to kick-start the comments/hate mail: Kevin Martin had a better season than Richard Hamilton. Hamilton was an All-Star.

(Note: All stats from the excellent Basketball-Reference.com.)