The Houston Rockets prioritized the development of the young talent on the roster, but some guys have taken a back seat to the young stars that have emerged this season. One of the guys that has taken a smaller role this season is KJ Martin. KJ is not a star, and he is not a guy that will take over the game on his own. Although he’s not a star, his skill set is necessary for this rebuilding team. A “Glue Guy” that plays well with every possible lineup is necessary for a possible contender. The Rockets need to increase KJ’s minutes and also consider starting him at the power forward position over Jae’Sean Tate. Jae’Sean is another guy that can contribute on a contender but his fit as a starter remains a question mark.
Women lie, Men lie but numbers don’t lie
KJ Martin has been one of the most consistent young guys for the Rockets this season. The combo of top tier finishing and above average shooting from deep has been a staple for KJ. Martin is shooting 36% from three point range and 61% from inside the arch. While his efficiency is great the volume is not there just yet. The numbers don’t tell the full story for Martin. Martin is averaging fewer MPG, FGA, PPG and TRB than last season and has only started 2 games this season. Martin has shown his ability to fit with any lineup and helps his teammates fulfill their potentials. Shawn Marion is a comparison that KJ gets a lot, and it seems to be pretty accurate.
KJ is a 6’6 forward that has ridiculous athleticism and is an underrated defender. For the season KJ has a 108.6 OFFRTG and a 54.3% for EFG matching Eric Gordons efficiency for this season. Stat Nerd Breakdown has a video that simplifies the stats from last season showing how effective KJ was with a slightly bigger role. The video explains how KJ averaged 1.378 PPP as the P&R Roll Man and 1.079 PPP in transition. The Rockets are a young team, and they want to get out in transition as much as possible. The baby Rockets also use the P&R as a staple for the offense so KJ posting impressive numbers in the necessary spots is a plus. Having a uber athletic potential shooter that finished 90th percentile as a roll man makes you wonder why he isn’t already the starter.
KJ is also a decent playmaker; he usually makes the correct reads on the floor. Sometimes Martin starts to force the issue but that may be from having a limited role. KJ isn’t the best shot creator off the dribble so getting to the rim as he attacks a close out is rare. That’s one negative to his game that needs to improve if he wants to start down the line. Getting in the paint and not having any counters other than athleticism isn’t ideal, it leads to forced shots at the rim.
Luckily KJ is 73rd percentile in PPP at put back attempts, so there’s some positive to the negative. Defense is also a positive for KJ as he finished at 76th percentile as the P&R Ball Handler defender and 61st percentile as the screen defender. Using his size, strength and athleticism KJ can become a great defender. I’m sure Kenyon Martin Sr. gets onto his son about defense and instilled a hunger on the defensive side of the game.
Should KJ Start Next Season?
Only time will tell where the Rockets end up in the lottery which will determine which top prospect will be added to the squad. Will KJ have even more minutes shaved off his plate? Hopefully by the start of next season there’s more a set role for everyone on the roster. Creating structure will help weed out who deserves to stay long term and who might not make it to the promise land. The stats and eye test show exactly what most fans think about KJ and his position on the depth chart. KJ should be a starter next season and to be honest he should’ve kept his starting role from last season. Things work out as how they should and maybe it gives KJ even more motivation to improve this offseason.
The only situation where KJ might not be an ideal choice to start would be if the Rockets pick a forward in the lottery this summer. Even then KJ has the ability to play the SF spot, but he has to improve his confidence off the dribble. If KJ can stick as a SF/PF he can get comfortable and eventually strive in his role. Using KJ as a small ball 5 isn’t where he shines as a defender. A weak side shot blocker who can switch 1-5 is exactly what KJ is and next season hopefully the coaching staff sets the parameters on who does what. All in all, KJ has a very compelling argument to be a starter going into next season. If there’s some improvements shown going to next year, it’s going to be tough to keep this young man on the bench for long.
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