Before I begin, let me just say what a privilege it has been to write for this wonderful site. I've made quite a few friends and quite a few memories here at P&T, and I've enjoyed every minute of it.
As you may have heard, the Knicks have expressed interest in acquiring Kenyon Martin. I'm here to tell you why that might not be the worst idea in the history in the world after all.
What's that? You wanna kick my ass? Well, it's a 13.5-hour flight from Newark to Beijing...come at me, bro!
Now, for those of you still reading instead of checking for flight tickets, let me just say that I share your distaste for all things K-Mart. But the Knicks' big-man rotation isn't exactly a pillar of strength these days - Rasheed Wallace doesn't look to be coming back anytime soon, Amar'e Stoudemire's minutes need careful managing, and now Marcus Camby's plantar fasciitis is acting up again - so it would be irresponsible not to consider all options, including Martin.
By now we're all aware of K-Mart's many faults; let's save some time and sum them up with this acrostic poem:
Fits poorly with Amar'e in the frontcourt
Unsigned this long...could be rusty
God-awful offensive player
Athleticism from his prime years mostly gone
Zone defenses - he struggles against them
I just don't like Kenyon Martin
Nevertheless, it's important to remember that we are talking about mid-season free agents here. No matter who the Knicks choose - if they choose anyone at all - they'll be getting a seriously flawed player. What we must do is look past Martin's history with the Knicks, not to mention his punchable face, and weigh his flaws as a player against his possible benefits.
What can he bring to the table on each end of the floor? Well, there's no way to tip-toe around this fact: K-Mart is ass on offense. In 42 games with the Clippers last season, K-Mart put up a 9.9 PER and a whopping -0.3 offensive win shares, shooting a career-low .441 from the floor. However, he did spend the first part of last season in China before joining a new team mid-season. We saw how a good shooter like J.R. Smith was bothered by a similar move, posting shooting numbers among his career lows last season before bouncing back this year. Maybe Martin would have benefited from a training camp, but it's too late for that now. There is a chance for a bounce-back season on offense, but it is very unlikely.
Any contributions from Martin will likely come on the defensive end - and this is where things start to get interesting. The Knicks need defense right now like a Beijing cab driver needs deodorant. They have been creeping steadily backward in the defensive rankings for weeks, not even Camby's return could halt the trend. Can Martin help on the defensive end? He managed a fairly impressive 1.2 defensive wins shares in limited time last season, and his 102 defensive rating was tied with DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe for best on the Clippers. For comparison's sake, only two Knicks have a defensive rating of 102 or below: Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby. And K-Mart got better as the season progressed. He was so important to the Clippers in their first round series against Memphis that he was trusted to play crunch time minutes in Game 7 over Blake Griffin in the Clippers' series clinching win. That's a pretty big deal. Check out this article from Steve Perrin: he spends most of his praise on Reggie Evans and Eric Bledsoe, but he does mention Martin's defensive contribution on several occasions. Of course, Evans and Bledsoe aren't available, but K-Mart is.
Here are some choice Martin quotes from Clips Nation's 2012 off-season preview:
"KMart was exactly what this team needed. He could play PF and C, he could make a mid-range jumpshot, he could defend, he brought veteran presence- I can't speak highly enough of his on-court contributions when he was motivated."
"But how much is Kenyon Martin worth on the free agent market? Mid-level? I doubt it. $4M a year? That's [Ryan] Gomes money. The mysterious guy who will become the Clippers GM would be dumb not to pay that kind of money for the guy who was the Clips best defender and best big off the bench last year."
Sounds like a guy who might be worth a flier as a mid-season injury replacement, no?
One important thing to understand about the Knicks' courting of Martin: they have a whole lot of guys on the roster who have played significant time with the guy, including three of their four most important players (Carmelo Anthony, Jason Kidd, J.R. Smith). It can't be easy to just dump some random dude into a rotation mid-season and expect everyone to play well together, so that kind of experience might prove extremely valuable. I trust these guys to give the front office useful feedback on Martin. Word on the street is that Martin isn't the easiest guy in the world to get along with, but if Melo and Kidd want to play with the guy, then it might be worth a shot at this point.
If the Camby foot injury is as bad as it sounds, then the Knicks are suddenly in pretty dire straits. Even if Camby can play, the Knicks could use a fresh body up front who can play something at least vaguely resembling defense. Maybe there other guys out there who can do the job better than Martin; I certainly hope there are. All I'm trying to say is that, if you wake up tomorrow and read on P&T that the Knicks have officially signed Kenyon Martin, you think twice before lighting yourself on fire.