Minutes-- Last Year: 21.5 This Year: 28.4 Change: +6.9
Points-- Last Year: 7.0 This Year: 10.7 Change: +3.7
Field Goals Attempted-- Last Year: 6.0 This Year: 8.7 Change: +2.7
Field Goal Percentage-- Last Year: 39.6% This Year: 42.2% Change: +2.6%
Three-Pointers Attempted-- Last Year: 3.0 This Year: 4.2 Change: +1.2
Three-Point Percentage-- Last Year: 36.4% This Year: 38.8% Change: +2.4%
Free Throws Attempted-- Last Year: 1.6 This Year: 2.2 Change: +0.6
Free Throw Percentage-- Last Year: 70.5% This Year: 73.5% Change: +3.0%
Effective Field Goal Percentage-- Last Year: 48.9% This Year: 51.6% Change: +1.7%
Offensive Rebounds-- Last Year: 0.5 This Year: 0.7 Change: +0.2
Defensive Rebounds-- Last Year: 2.4 This Year: 3.2 Change: +0.8
Overall Rebounds-- Last Year: 2.9 This Year: 3.9 Change: +1.0
Assists-- Last Year: 0.6 This Year: 1.2 Change: +0.6
Steals-- Last Year: 0.4 This Year: 0.6 Change: +0.2
Blocks-- Last Year: 0.2 This Year: 0.4 Change: +0.2
Turnovers-- Last Year: 0.9 This Year: 1.1 Change: +0.2
--Can he develop any kind of offense off of the dribble?
--Can he defend at all?
--Can he score without being the center of the offense?
For the first time in his career he gave us some preliminary answers.
--Yes, he has the confidence to play in the NBA. The Martell who got lost, distracted, and pouty seemed to develop into a decent contributor. His production still faded in many games but he didn’t seem to disappear into that black hole nearly as much. You didn’t hear stories of coaching frustration either. Indeed, you heard compliments about his turn-around.
--No, he still hasn’t shown the ability to score by putting the ball on the floor. However we did see a few more two-point attempts this year, including dives and dunks from plays away from the ball. He didn’t spend 100% of the season on the weak side passively waiting for the ball to be thrown to him.
--He’s not a marquee defender. He’s not even a sign-on-the-telephone-pole defender yet. But his defense is improving. If you remember the litany of unopposed, step-behind drives he used to give up you will have noticed their relative absence this year. Even though he still had trouble staying in front of people he at least stayed with his man long enough to channel them into help. Being guarded by him wasn’t a complete vacation. That’s progress.
--Martell can score some without being the center of the set, but there’s no doubt he still prospers when plays are set up for him. His most memorable offensive efforts had one thing in common: droves of points in a very short time. Those happened exactly during the stretches he was fed the ball consistently and picked for. Even though the overall increase in scoring this year was impressive, 10.7 ppg isn’t the kind of production you need from an offense-oriented forward. Whether he could score more is not the issue. The issue is whether he can score more without taking plays away from the main guys on this team.
Even being able to go through a list like this semi-definitively is progress for Martell, however. Though popular opinion of him fluctuated from thrilled after his rookie year to substantially disappointed following his sophomore season, the truth was he was a complete roll of the dice after each campaign. The definition he provided this year was a step forward…a sign he’s becoming a player and not just a promise.
Moving on to more tangible things, all that green up in the stat survey will tell you that Martell managed reasonably well in his 70 starts, at least compared to his past performance. His roughly 1/3 increase in playing time resulted in a roughly 1/3 increase in stats across the board…slightly more in some cases. The only stat that went to the negative was turnovers, and that at a slower rate than the increase of the others. He shot better from the three-point arc, the free throw line, and from the field overall while taking more shots in each category. That’s not easy to do. He shot above 40% from the field for the first time in his career. He shot his highest three-point percentage ever. The increase in free throw percentage was nice but that clip really should be higher from a guy who can shoot. Those three-pointers also drove his effective field goal percentage higher. It would be nice if Martell continued working on his rebounding. It would be an easy way to cement his floor time besides just scoring more.
In the end the most impressive stat on the list was simply his 28.4 minutes per game. You don’t approach 30 minutes unless you’ve earned it, especially on a team with James Jones and Travis Outlaw potentially playing your position. Nate showed confidence in Martell. If he didn’t exactly excel, at least he didn’t disappoint.
It’s hard to get over judging Martell based on his draft position. If you compare him to Chris Paul and Deron Williams you’re going to walk away disappointed. If you take him on his own terms, though--a kid who came into the league very early and struggled mightily to find his way under pressure--his progress is encouraging. That said, the Blazers are going to have to make some important decisions about him in the coming year. Travis Outlaw’s progress this year may encourage them to give more time to another 21-year old who appears to have skill and promise. On the other hand the team is rapidly going to get beyond the point of valuing projects over producers in key roles. Whether they’ll have room and patience for Martell and Travis both is an open question, as is Martell’s value on the open market. For all of the talk about improvement, there are as many gray areas here as ever.
Still thinkin’ about it, Baby.