The view from the tank.
The Rockets have a lot of young, or at least untested, players by NBA standards. Some are somewhat older players who are only getting significant NBA minutes for the first time (and this, really, includes Christian Wood). Two of these Rockets were born in the present century and millennium. In the usual, or at least older, order of basketball things, this would make a couple of them closer to a college freshmen than NBA pro: Kenyon Martin Jr, born January 8th, 2001 is one of those youngsters.
A new 20 years old, and not able to legally buy alcohol in the USA, Kenyon Martin Jr has nonetheless been supplying the block party with some outrageous offerings. So far the 6’5” Martin has counted coup on the following NBA giants (and I may have missed some): 7’4” “290 lbs” Boban Marjanovic, 7’1” Rudy Gobert (this season’s leader in Stat Most Related to Unassisted Dunks), 7’5” Tacko Fall, 7’1” James Wiseman, and 7’3” Kristaps Porzingis. These were not lucky breaks, or “blocking” the ball as the opponent raised his arms from his waist for a shot. No. These are flying, forceful, in your face, cleanly rejected dunk attempts by literally, the tallest guys in the NBA.
They are, frankly, a Godsend, in this miserable wasteland of a (productively!?!) lost season. A moment of joy in the joyless slog to (fingers crossed) a top pick in the 2021 draft.
A player drafted at #53 who does that is probably worth keeping around in such times for entertainment value alone.
Is there more to KJ Martin Jr? I think so, but remember, he just turned twenty, and didn’t play in college, or even overseas, or the G League. In pro basketball terms (and literal ones to some here) he’s a baby. It makes sense to look at him the way a scout would when evaluating young players. I’ll score him from 1-5 with 5 being highest. The first number is current value, the second is my opinion of upside potential value. There is, of course, no guarantee the upside will be reached.
I’d place an average NBA player at “3”. This isn’t a super granular method, because I don’t think it is useful be super granular about this at this point. Does 44 out of 100 really tell you more than “2” for a developing player?
Remember – These are my subjective thoughts, I’m not a scout or anything like it. Your views may differ, and that’s the fun of this.
- Athleticism/Explosion – 5/5 There is no doubt Martin can run and fly. The blocks, to me, indicate not only explosiveness and leaping ability, but superb body control. They’re clean blocks, and he’s been whistled for fouls on still more impressive (and clean) block attempts. His on-court running speed is excellent as well. His second jump is also very quick.
- Shooting Ability – 2/4 There is potential for Martin to be an above average NBA shooter, but probably not an elite one. His mechanics aren’t bad, but he doesn’t get the shot up especially quickly, and his ability to shoot off motion, or the dribble, is work in progress, sometimes it doesn’t seem present.
- Awareness/BBIQ/Anticipation – 2/5 He’s a very young player, but his ability to end up in the right place on defense is a good sign. Right now, though, he’s mainly a raw player who has some good ideas sometimes and can yeet any opponent’s shot out of the building.
- Physical Profile/Physicality/Durability – 3/4 He’ll never be the almost terrifying court presence his father was, but he’s got a lot of room to add strength. Durability is simply unknown at this point.
- Playmaking/Shot Creation 1/4. – Long way to go here, flashes of something better. Will look better with an off-season, camp, practice, VSL, etc. Ideas are good, but the game is too fast.
- Handle/Speed With Ball 2/4 – His handle is ok, with either hand, but nowhere near a finished article. He can’t seem to hold his handle well under pressure at this point, which is no surprise for a very young wing. He controls the ball pretty well at high speed, though.
- Versatility 3/5 – Martin could slot into a number of “positions” in the positionless NBA IF he can get his shot dialed in. If Martin develops a reliable 39% 3pt shot, and continues developing, NBA starter looks like the low range.
- Defense – 2/5 – There’s potential for elite defense in Martin, as he’s laterally quick, vertically fast, physically strong, and a threat to block anyone, any time. The upside is NBA All Defense, but it’s miles in the distance.
Best Case Comparison – A better-shooting Shawn Marion, that is an elite defender who can guard 2-5 in a switching scheme, locks up wings, cleans up opportunities around the rim, must always be guarded on the perimeter, and passes off on drives very well. (Such an outcome would be a grand slam for Rafael Stone and the Rockets).
Martin, at 20, shows up as basically an average player by most metrics. Given a season with no real camp, no real practices, and constant upheaval, that’s highly encouraging.
Recommendation: Strong Buy