Friday, May 9, 2008

Player Report Card: Kenyon Martin

(Boulder-CO) With absolutely no way to gauge how Kenyon Martin would perform after having his second microfracture surgery (one now in each knee) and only playing in two games last year, I was pleasantly surprised with the level of play K-Mart returned with this season. He proved able to come back and stay healthy by playing in 71 games, all starts, with his toughness still being a factor for the Denver Nuggets. But there is still that huge salary that every sportswriter, including myself, just can’t overlook when examining the overall picture that is Kenyon Martin. K-Mart took home 13 million dollars this season making him the third highest paid player (behind only AI and ‘Melo, of course) on the league’s third highest team payroll while still not coming even close to his former self, statistically speaking.

Kenyon’s numbers this year were modest yet steady in increase over the duration of the season. In November, Kenyon started slow with averages of 8.3 points, five rebounds, and a single assist, but by March Martin’s numbers had peaked at 15.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, and a few more assists here and there. Martin finished with the highest overall field goal percentage on the team with a mark of 53.8% (a career-high for the former #1 overall pick). And another career-best category for Kenyon this year was his turnover rate which was an economical career-low 1.3 miscues per game. However, Kenyon’s season averages of 12.4 points, 6.5 rebounds (both ranking third on the team), and 1.3 assists were all below his career averages and were, in fact, his lowest totals since his rookie year.

And it’s that kind of half-empty, half-full kind of season that makes evaluating Kenyon Martin quite possibly the most difficult player to really stand firm on.

On the one hand, he came back from not one, but two, devastating injuries and showed glimpses of the player Denver thought they might be getting after acquiring him from New Jersey fresh off an NBA Finals appearance. He was efficient with the basketball, provided the Nuggets with their only “real” one-on-one post defender, and brought an overall toughness to the Nuggets that no other player could provide. And that toughness was never more evident then in the must-win game against the Warriors on March 29th when Kenyon poured in a season-high 30 points and eleven rebounds to help the Nuggets overcome a huge first half deficit to eventually win and keep their playoff hopes alive.

On the other, Kenyon Martin’s scoring average shrank down to 8.8 points come playoff time which left the Nuggets searching for an offensive post presence (seeing how Marcus Camby plays guard on O) and his humongous contract will always leave a sour taste in the mouths of the Nuggets Nation.

Now, here is the bright side of things: at this point, Kenyon Martin may still be valuable to the Nuggets. Because the way I see it is depending on how rocky Nene’s comeback trail is the Nuggets either have a solid, tough, and veteran player to bring in off the bench or a player who can still start after proving physically strong enough to play over 70 games.

So, for all that I give Kenyon a C+. The plus is for coming back from the injuries and staying healthy, but overall it was “half-full” mediocre season for Kenyon Martin. Chime in if you feel differently or have anything to add.
Go Nuggets!

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