The past 10 months have been a whirlwind for Kenyon Martin Jr. and Houston Rockets fans alike. Following a Summer where it was reported that the aforementioned Martin was seeking a potential move, we somehow ended up here, with a seemingly content Martin as the starting small forward.
To his credit, KJ handled the situation professionally and went on to have a productive season in which he earned the starting role as of January 13th, and with that, more consistent minutes.
For the season, KJ averaged 12.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, with approximately half a steal and half a block. He accomplished this while playing 28 minutes over all 82 games. His shooting splits were approximately 57 percent from the field, 32 percent from three and 68 percent from the free throw line.
While his overall field goal percent went up due to a lofty amount of dunks, his 3P% slipped from the league average 35 percent that he shot in 2021-22.
That slippage was indicative of this Rockets season in a nutshell as the team fell from 21st to the very bottom in long range shooting. So with that being said, it’s certainly not all on KJ.
Looking past the shooting numbers, KJ brought a lot of energy and fun to this Rockets unit in 2022-23. He, with Tari Eason, was the other forward featured in the Rockets best statistical lineup. His effort won't go unnoticed as he also was one of the more defensively competent players on the roster.
Another aspect that works favorably for Martin is how well he plays off of Alperen Şengün’s unique playmaking prowess. For one, he knows how to cut off of Alpy, and if he can regain some shooting touch next season, it will only strengthen their chemistry.
Having capable defenders, especially at the forward spots, around Şengün that can create space for the Turkish Delight bodes well for KJ should the team choose to tap into that offensive identity going forward.
Be that as it may, it will once again be interesting to see what this offseason holds for KJ and this Rockets partnership. While his concerns regarding his role going forward were smoothed over for this season, those same questions are sure to arise as this team is in line for a makeover.
Jabari Smith Jr. will undoubtedly need to be featured more next season. Eason has also staked his claim to get more run. Depending on how the draft lottery unfolds, a still slight-framed Victor Wembanyama can theoretically figure into lineups with Şengün. Brandon Miller could be the best remaining player on the board when Houston picks.
While it may be far-fetched, the Jaylen Brown rumblings have to be considered as well. So does Cam Johnson’s restricted free agency status. The list goes on.
None of that is meant to dissuade a continued partnership with KJ, it’s just something to contemplate as he and his team are surely monitoring it as well. He’d be an incredible piece to keep around and he’s still talented enough to maintain a role here. It just depends on if Houston can satisfy his desires.