In college, Kevin Martin was a star. In his 3 seasons at Western Carolina, Martin was able to have carreer averages of 23.3 ppg, 1.7 ast, 4.5 rpg, on 46.2% from the field and 34.6% from three. Despite being one of the nations best scorers for 3 consequitive years, the sharpshooter fell to the 26th pick in the 2004 NBA draft.
What’s interesting about Martins career, is that it took him two years to really kick things into gear. An injury to Bonzi Wells in the 2005-2006 season thrusted him into the starting lineup for Sacramento, and the rest is history. His best year was the following season, 2006-07. He led the team in scoring (20.2), three point percentage (38%), as well as field goal percentage (47%), those shootung splits cemented him as one of the leagues most promising sharpshooters. The Kings implemented their offensive system around Martin, giving the Kings hope for next year, as they fell short of a playoff spot finishing the season 33-49.
The next three years Martin didn’t disappoint as he maintained scoring 20+ points, but it was clear that the Kings weren’t going anywhere as their record got progressively worse, and it wasn’t all on Martin.
Three years into his 5-yr/$55m deal the Kings traded Martin to Houston in a three team deal that included Tracy McGrady, Carl Landry, Joey Dorsey, Kevin Martin, Kenny Thomas, Hilton Armstrong and Sergio Rodriguez.
Martin learned of the news on the team bus and was crushed that he was being dealt. “It’s a sad day for me in the sense that Sac was the first team that took a chance for me late in the first round of the draft,” Martin said from the team bus. “They showed so much loyalty to me throughout the years. They gave me the big contract to show that you loved me…(But) I just think it was time for us to go in a different direction. I was the young guy before, and now I’m the oldest starter. I think it’s good.” (via Sam Amick Blog).
Houston never saw the postseason during Martin’s time with the Rockets, and unfortunately that was the resume he accumulated over his whole career. He was a guy who could flat out score the basketball, but could never push his respective team over that hump and compete for a title when he was in a position to. Throughout his career he only saw the post season three times. Two of those years came on the back end of his career, and his first look at the playoffs came when he was 22 and inexperienced.
A talented player who just got unlucky. Put Martin in the right system in his prime and I believe we would be describing a different narrative. The problem with Martin is that he was too talented, Sacramento acquired a lot of value through the deal, leaving Martin with no pieces or old washed up stars to surround him in Houston. Needless to say this makes Martin one of the most underrated players in NBA history.
Another reason why Martin didn’t have a successful career in terms of accolades is that he could never seem to keep himself healthy. He only accumulated five seasons where he was available for more than 68 games. That hurts a franchise when your star player can’t stay on the court consistently.
His only standout season was the 2006-07 season as I mentioned previously, and ended up coming in second in the Most Improved Player race, losing to rising star Monta Ellis.
I wish the narrative was different because I actually loved Kevin Martin, but he will just be forever known as another forgotten talent that came through the league.