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Ckecking Up on Kevin Martin's Growth

Last summer, we took the assumption Kevin Martin would see a big jump in usage this season and forecasted how that might go. (We were right, by the way: Martin's usage has jumped from 20.8 last season to 23.7 in his 600 minutes this year.) We looked at the bump years for Reggie Miller (1989-90) and Michael Red (2003-04) -- Miller took his usage bump very well, Redd lost a bunch of efficiency.

How has Martin done? Here are the stats for all three players in the mini-study.

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:
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
Martin 08   24.9  16.7   .297  9.9  .449   .398  .850  .493 .592  23.7  21.1

So far this season, Martin has been somewhere between Miller's tremendous performance and Redd's slippage. What Miller did was remarkable -- something we didn't really denote in the summer post, but needs to be said. Miller took over the Pacers offense and his efficiency still shot upwards. Martin's overall shooting efficiency has lagged just a bit, nowhere near as much Redd's did, but a noticeable amount. Why?

Two factors have made Martin less efficient this year: He's taking fewer threes, and his two-point shooting is bad. He's shooting at a better clip than ever from deep; while he takes more of his shots from behind the arc than either Miller or Redd did at this point in their careers, he could do to take more. Why hasn't he? And why have his free throws shot up so much? Well, about a third of his season-to-date was played without a point guard. Martin was forced to create his own offense. It's something he can obviously do -- only five two-guards have a better TS% this year, only three of those play starter level minutes, and none approach Martin's usage rate. But being forced to create offense takes away a major weapon for sharpshooters -- the assisted three-pointer. In 2006-07, 60% of Martin's made jumpers were assisted. This year, 51% of Martin's made jumpers are assisted. (This is just all jumpers -- I'd assume the effect is magnified were you to have the data on just threes.) It's a fair difference, and it's simply easier to get off a three off a draw or screen than when you're forced into dribbling on the perimeter.

Of course, the increased creation has been a boon to Kevin's free throw numbers -- and those numbers have teamed up with the accurate three-ball shooting to keep that TS% high. (Not seen in the numbers above: His rebounding has been great. That's the cause -- along with perhaps his steals -- which keeps his PER above Miller's 89-90 figure.)

I think we'll take that -- Martin's lost some efficiency with the bigger load, but remains among the most efficient scoring guards in the league. (Chauncey Billups, Steve Nash and Deron Williams are all in the conversation; none score to the level Martin does. Manu Ginobili's scoring volume is similar, his efficiency slightly lower.) We have a clear All-Star on our hands (assuming he keeps it up). Well worth the investment.