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A Basic Look At How Kevin Martin Fits In With The Rockets

We've heard that "change of scenery" cliche hundreds of times, and if anyone could come up with a slicker way of stating the meaning behind it, then the truth of it wouldn't be so commonly drowned by a tidal wave of annoyance. Truth is, a change of scenery often benefits players who desperately needed it. Zach Randolph, Gerald Wallace, Mehmet Okur, and J.R. smith fit the bill. So does Kevin Martin.

Some players just can't play well together. It's not their fault. They might be great friends with similar interests and hobbies. It's the classic Dale Doback/Brennan Huff scenario: each may be talented in his own right, but only when the two are separated does each start to thrive. Martin thrived once, and then Tyreke came to play in the Kings' sandbox and unintentionally screwed everything up. For whatever reason, the two just couldn't make it work, no matter how hard they tried. Two scoring guards matched together doesn't always pan out well, because ideally, you'd like for one of them to facilitate for the other.

Which is why I'm curious to see how Martin will play with Aaron Brooks.

Brooks has been the alpha guard ever since he took the starting job. He never got to play with a healthy McGrady, and the fact that Trevor Ariza can't safely dribble past a tree is not Aaron's fault. At the end of the day, I do think Martin/Brooks will work far better than Martin/Evans, if only because Rick Adelman's brand of offense, though carefully crafted, is incredibly impulsive and spontaneous (and Martin knows this as well as anyone). Ball movement and off-ball movement are emphasized over setting up plays for certain players. The difference in Team McGrady versus Team Martin is that the offense often revolved around setting up Tracy. Martin comes off much more as a complementary scorer, an elite offensive talent who can take the brunt of the shots if asked, but won't necessarily demand it. Brooks is of this same mold, whereas I tend to believe Evans is more like McGrady. Essentially, I'm banking that Brooks, and to a lesser degree Martin, will be able to recognize when to shoot and when to defer. McGrady, as good a passer as he is, didn't always take option 2 seriously, and forced a ton of bad looks.

Martin will be a focus, and will be given the chance to create in crunch time, sure, but for the most part, the biggest improvement for the Rockets offensively is that a good chunk of shots that Shane Battier and Trevor Ariza were uncomfortable taking will now be trusted to Martin, who can shoot it well from anywhere. Ariza should slide back into his sidekick role as a catch-and-shoot guy, someone who can finish a play after guys like Martin and Brooks do most of the dirty work.

Prime of all my infatuations with Martin is his magnetic attraction to the free throw line. Carl Landry was an excellent free throw shooter, but Martin gets to the line far more often, and makes his freebies at about the same rate. The Rockets are currently in the bottom half of the league in free throw attempts per game, meaning they rely heavily on their shooting stroke to get them points. The Rockets can be very streaky at times, and when the shots aren't falling, the Miami Heat game happens. Martin's ability to get to the free throw line should be a nice cure to the Rockets' cold spells.

Defensively, I can't see the Rockets falling off too much, even with Martin's supposed defensive struggles. Most teams will have a single wing scorer, a Brandon Roy, LeBron James, or Kobe Bryant. The Rockets will be able to rotate Ariza and Battier on  the primary scorer, leaving Martin to guard the complement, which shouldn't be too difficult for him. If anything, Martin can relax a bit more on defense (not that he doesn't already) and save some energy without hurting the team. You can't relax against Kobe Bryant and expect to win the game.

Honestly, my only issue with Martin is his durability. Matt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm put it best:

[Morey] did trade a guy who came back from getting shot and losing his teeth in Dirk’s arm for a guy who seems to need bandaids for the wind, though.

And then Kevin Pelton made sure to add to pile on:

...the Rockets are continuing their tradition of star players who tend to spend a lot of time on the sidelines...

They're both right. It makes the trade much riskier for the Rockets. Yes, if Martin only plays 60 games but is back in time for the playoffs, there shouldn't be a problem, but it most likely leads to a lower playoff seed.

It's a gamble, but it's one worth taking. Any Kings fan would agree.


David Thorpe, Kevin Martin's trainer, on ESPN