After playing with two superstars on his previous team, Kevin Martin wasn’t looking to become a number one option for the Minnesota Timberwolves, making him quite happy to be playing alongside Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, even though they are a very different kind of “stars” compared to the previous season.
Maybe Martin has changed during his year as a sixth man for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He’s used to being a leading scorer, like he was for the Kings and Rockets in the past, without much regard for other players when it comes to giving up shots.
But for the Thunder, Martin came in the role of the guy who is supposed to lead the second unit in scoring, while making open shots when Westbrook and Durant are on the floor with him, drawing double teams. Martin averaged 14 points per game, his lowest since his second season in the NBA, but made 42.6% of his shots from beyond the arc.
For the Timberwolves, he’ll be starting next to Ricky Rubio, and will have a lot more responsibility offensively. However, he won’t be a number one option on offense, even though he might end up leading the team in scoring. But it won’t be about him handling the ball too much as he did with Houston and Sacramento, but by making the most of finally healthy Kevin Love and Rubio building him up to that.
Rubio hasn’t shown us yet that he’s the next Steve Nash, as in a player who immediately turns every one around him into a better player, but there are hints and signs he’s heading that way, although his scoring, unless something drastically changes, is going to be way off that mark.
But there’s also Love, who wants to erase last season from his memory (two long injuries, playing only 18 games). He averaged 24 points per game in 2011-2012, and when healthy is one of the best rebounders in the NBA, and one of the better passers among big men in the league if not the best of them, with an excellent stroke from beyond the arc, shooting a career 35.2% from there.
After playing with Kevin Durant and Russell, I wasn’t going to another team without a superstar. It just elevates your game and makes your life a lot easier.
Martin knows that with him as the leading man, he isn’t going to find much success. After making the playoffs only twice during his NBA career, teaming up with other talented players was a major priority. He didn’t give up money (signing a four-year, $28 million contract), but got himself into a better situation, at least in his opinion, than the one the New Orleans Pelicans and the Milwaukee Bucks offered.
The Timberwolves can be a playoff team if everyone stays healthy, but that’s not everything. For things to work, Martin needs to stay within his boundaries, and make the most of playing next to an amazing passer like Rubio and an excellent scorer teams will have to respect like Love. If that triangle works out fine, before mentioning Nikola Pekovic who is likely to be signed eventually, Kevin Martin should thrive with the Timberwolves, who might make the playoffs for the first time in 10 years.