With the Knicks somewhat reeling (5-6 record in their past 11 games) and injuries hurting the team, rumors have surfaced that the team is interested in bringing free-agent power forward Kenyon Martin on board. Martin (career averages of 13 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.2 blocks) has not played this season after appearing in 42 games last season for the Los Angeles Clippers and after beginning his career with four seasons as a New Jersey Net and seven seasons as a Denver Nugget. While he’s been a talented and quality player throughout his career, bringing on KMart doesn’t really help any of the Knicks current issues.
Let’s begin with the issue of how exactly the Knicks can add Martin to the roster. The team has no openings on the roster, meaning they would have to release a player or possibly trade one for either cash compensation or a draft pick to open up the roster spot. Taking a look at the roster, the only three candidates who the Knicks would seemingly let go of in order to add Martin would be James White, Chris Copeland or Kurt Thomas. With the current injury to Raymond Felton and Iman Shumpert yet to return from his ACL injury of last postseason, it’s doubtful the Knicks would get rid of White and further more hurt their depth at the guard position. As for Copeland, the 28-year old rookie has shown his preseason scoring barrage wasn’t a fluke. He had two twenty-point games in December, has scored in double figures in five of his 22 appearances and is shooting 49% from the floor, 40% from beyond the arc. With the uncertainty of J.R. Smith returning next season and the Knicks limited in being able to bring in players, Copeland could prove to be a cheap, scoring alternative should Smith not return next season so why lose him now. Crazy Eyes would then seem to be the logical choose to move to bring Martin on board. However, would the addition of Martin in favor of Thomas actually help the Knicks. Not according to the numbers.
Let’s begin with the fact that Martin is not being brought on board to help the Knicks offensively. Even with the injuries, the Knicks still rank second in offensive efficiency and third in three-point shooting percentage. Whatever help Martin is bringing to the team, it should be in offensive rebounding and defense. The Knicks currently rank 24th in offensive rebounding rate and 19th in defensive efficiency. Lets begin with rebounding. Martin holds a slight edge in career rebounding numbers, averaging 7.1 boards per game compared to Thomas’ 6.7 boards per game. However, Martin has also averaged 4.9 more minutes played per game than Thomas. In terms of per-40 numbers, Thomas has had better rebounding numbers than Martin in each of the past five seasons. In fact, Martin has only averaged double figures in rebounds per-40 minutes just once in the past five seasons, while Thomas has never averaged less than 9.4 rebounds per-40 minutes. This season, Thomas is averaging 9.8 rebounds per-40 minutes. In terms of rebounding rate, the only two times Martin grabbed a higher percentage of missed shots than Thomas since 2002-03 was in 2003-04 and 2009-10 season (and it was just by a margin of 0.1). In other words, Thomas has proven to be the better rebounder throughout his career and chances are would be today.
Now let’s compare their defensive numbers. In each season since 2009-10, Thomas has given up fewer points per possession than Martin (2009-10: Thomas: 0.81 Martin 0.86, 2010-11: Thomas: 0.84 Martin 0.88, 2011-12: Thomas:0.72 Martin 0.83). Defending the post, Thomas has been better than Martin in two of the past three years (2009-10: Thomas: 0.59 Martin 0.91, 2010-11: Thomas 0.84 Martin 0.75, 2011-12: Thomas 0.6 Martin 0.8). Now this season, Thomas has seen his defensive numbers suffer, as he’s given up 1.07 points per possession and one point per possession guarding post-ups. However, to expect Martin to do better than those numbers while coming on to a team mid-way thru the season after not playing since last May is overly optimistic.
While most people can find valuable bargains at their local Kmart stores, it would be wise for the Knicks to stay away from the NBA’s version of KMart and keep the course with what they have.