Kevin Martin takes a shot at his former OKC teammates
The 26th overall pick back in 2004, Martin has had an interesting career. After coming on slowly over his first two NBA seasons (you know, back when the Kings were good), Martin put up 20.2 points per game in his third season (when the Kings tumbled to 33-49), starting a streak of five consecutive seasons averaging 20+ points.
Martin has bounced around in trades over the past few seasons, first heading to Houston in a deal that landed Carl Landry in Sacramento and Tracy McGrady in New York, then heading to Oklahoma City in the famous James Harden trade. When in OKC, Martin found himself in a situation that he had not experienced during his professional career - he was playing for a legitimate championship contender.
After hoisting 14.8 shots per game over the previous six seasons, Martin no longer had the green light when he teamed up with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. He averaged just 10.1 shot attempts and 14.0 points per contest - his lowest marks since 2005-06.
Martin bolted for Minnesota during free agency, where he knew he would be a big part of a Timberwolves team that was lacking a scoring option in their backcourt. Now a key piece to his team, Martin is back to averaging 21.3 points on 14.5 shots per game, and he seems to be enjoying his new role and new team very much. "This is such a fun team to play on. Nobody is trying to lead the league in scoring here," Martin said recently.
Woah. Hold on a second - was that a shot at Martin's former teammates Durant and Westbrook, who averaged a combined 36.4 shot attempts per game last year? Durant led the league in scoring for three consecutive seasons from 2009-10 to 2011-12, and is leading the NBA in scoring early in this young season, but he has always scored in an efficient manner. If anything, Durant doesn't shoot enough. The comment was probably targeted more so at Westbrook, who many (including myself) believe shoots a bit too much, but he still deserves to shoot more than Martin.
Martin is a catch-and-shoot type player - not someone who is going to frequently take you off the dribble and soar to the rim. He relies very much on other players to find him in his spots. Durant and Westbrook, on the other hand, can take over games on their own, so it is not a surprise that Martin took a substantial backseat when in OKC.
What Martin's comments suggest is that he enjoys having a big role on a bad team more than being a role player for a title contender. Sure, the Wolves could make the playoffs if they stay healthy (Martin, Ricky Rubio, and Kevin Love have all had significant injury woes over the past two years), but they are unlikely finish in the top six of the Western Conference. The Thunder, on the other hand, were the No. 1 seed last season with the second best record in all of the NBA. It seems that Martin may prefer individual success to team success (I understand that the Wolves are 3-1, but no one is talking about them making a run at the Finals).
Martin's quote sort of sums up what his career has been - putting up lofty numbers for teams with no shot at making a title run. If he wants to win a championship ring, Martin is best suited as a role player who is a third or fourth option on offense; someone who finds his spot and waits for the superstars to kick it to him so he can hit the open shot.
If Martin would rather get a healthy share of playing time and shot attempts than take a backseat on a team with championship aspirations, I can't really knock him for it, but it is an off-putting characteristic to teams with their sights set on an NBA title.