Timberwolves agree to sign Kevin Martin to four-year deal
The Timberwolves have agreed to sign free-agent guard Kevin Martin, according to multiple reports.
Martin, 30, averaged 14 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists for the Thunder last season. He shot 45 percent from the field, 42.6 percent from three-point range and 89 percent from the free-throw line as Oklahoma City’s sixth man.
“Ecstatic,” Martin said the move of the move to Minnesota, according to the Star-Tribune. “I’m still in the middle of my prime. I feel like I’m 26. If I was going to leave Oklahoma City, I wanted to get back to being myself as a starting ‘2’ [shooting guard].”
The free-agent negotiating period opened on Monday. Contracts can’t be signed until July 10.
The agreement marks the end of what was ultimately a disappointing and brief tenure in Oklahoma City for Martin. Acquired as the centerpiece of a package for James Harden, Martin did his best imitation of his predecessor, at least during the regular season. Things fell apart during the playoffs when Russell Westbrook suffered a season-ending knee injury; Martin wasn’t able to step up as a playmaker or ratchet up his scoring production to help fill the void. He was particularly quiet against a suffocating Grizzlies defense in the conference semifinals, as Kevin Durant was essentially left to play one-on-five for long stretches of the series.
In Minnesota, Martin gets a fresh start, a new set of expectations and a familiar coach. Instead of being asked to fill Harden’s shoes, he will simply be asked to be himself, as the 2012-13 Timberwolves were the league’s worst three-point shooting team and were fifth-worst in free throws attempted. Despite his unorthodox shooting stroke and skinny frame, Martin directly addresses those two team-wide weaknesses. He can make an open shot, create a clean look off the bounce and use his herky-jerky drive game to get to the stripe. What’s more, his most productive season came under Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman with the Rockets in 2010-11, when he averaged 25.9 points and posted a career-best PER of 21.4.
His addition, coupled with the re-signing of Chase Budinger, likely means that forward Andrei Kirilenko won’t be back. That will be an issue — potentially a major one — as Martin’s limitations as a defender are well-known and he’s joining a starting group that includes a number of players whose bread is buttered on the offensive end. The four-year term of his deal is also a bit problematic, carrying him past his 34th birthday. Martin’s ability to step back into a narrower reserve role as he ages helps mitigate some, but not all, of that concern.
Grade: B. Martin was due for a paycut from the eight-figure salaries he has enjoyed for the past four seasons, and the $7 million-per-year mark feels about right for a player who should plug in and fit like a glove in Minnesota, at least on one end. Whether the resulting lineup can score enough to make up for its defensive shortcomings remains to be seen, but this feels like just about the best free-agent talent the Timberwolves could hope to land in this summer’s class. Hedging with a team option or partial guarantee on the deal’s final year would have bumped up the grade.