This is the 14th in a 17-part series profiling each player on the Timberwolves’ roster leading up to training camp.
Leaning nonchalantly over the padded divider that separates the Timberwolves practice gym from their weight equipment while talking shop with Ronny Turiaf before a shootaround Wednesday, Kevin Martin appeared right at home.
In more ways than one, he is.
If familiarity breeds production, then the Timberwolves’ top free-agent addition sits poised for one of his best seasons yet. He’s the only player to join coach Rick Adelman in three different cities. He works out every summer with fellow unrestricted signee Corey Brewer. He’s played with small forward Chase Budinger. He toted player development coach Bobby Jackson’s gym bag when Martin was a rookie in Sacramento.
He knows his teammates. He knows his coach. He knows the schemes.
And the Oklahoma City transplant knows what’s expected of him: to reemerge as the prolific scorer he was before the 2011 NBA lockout.
2012-13 stats: 14 PPG, 42.6 3-pt PCT, 89 FT PCT, 27.7 MPG2013 salary: $6.5 million
Last year: Shortly before the start of last season, Houston sent Martin to the Thunder as part of the blockbuster James Harden deal. In Oklahoma City, he quickly adapted to a role he hadn’t had to even think about in years.
That of a sixth man.
Martin came off the bench to post the best 3-point shooting year of his career. His scoring numbers dipped from 17 points per game the previous season, but so did his minutes as Kevin Martin and Russell Westbrook soaked up most of the Thunder’s prime opportunities.
It was a far cry from his final full season in Houston, 2010-11 — his last go-round there was cut in half by the lockout — where Martin’s 23.4 points per game ranked ninth in the league. He was on the floor for 32.5 minutes per game that year.
It was also his final season under Adelman, whom the Rockets fired that offseason and the Timberwolves hired shortly thereafter.
Whether he’s coming off a ball screen or crossing over to create his own shot, Martin is as pure of a shooter as they come. His biggest criticisms come on defense, where he’s not been known to match up particularly well with other twos.
But Minnesota’s banking his scoring punch and knowledge of Adelman’s defensive schemes will be enough to compensate.
This year: Long before the offseason began, it was distinctly clear what kind of player the Timberwolves needed to bring into their starting five. They were the league’s worst 3-point shooting team, and only a formidable outside presence would suffice to shore up a solid but post-oriented core.
They needed a shooter, and they needed one bad. Enter Martin.
He won’t be coming off the bench anymore.
Martin will likely start on a wing opposite Budinger, who also has a knack for hitting 3s. He’ll be counted on to score between 18 and 20 points nightly, president of basketball operations Flip Saunders said, while exuding the knowledge that comes from nine years in the league.
Health, of course, remains a hefty concern for a team that lost almost every significant contributor to injury at some point last season. It carries even more consequence in the case of Martin.
Behind him, Minnesota isn’t really set with a true two. There are a few options at the position — Budinger, Alexey Shved, perhaps Shabazz Muhammad — but none with firepower anywhere near that of Martin. He played in 77 games last season, but the 30-year-old’s minutes should increase.
The 2013-14 campaign will be a test of his durability. And his ability — and willingness — to take over games offensively.
From the front office: “We’re gonna ask him to do a lot more. He’s more familiar with our offense than anybody on our roster, and he’s going to be able to teach that offense better than anybody. There’s no question, we’re almost getting a player that’s played for us before.” — Saunders