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Why Fans Should Remain Optimistic About T-Wolves Two-Way Forward Kelan Martin

Dakota Schmidt breaks down Kelan Martin’s game and describes why fans should remain optimistic about him despite struggles at the NBA level

Minnesota Timberwolves v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Despite the presence of Karl-Anthony Towns, who arguably stands as the best offensive big in the NBA, the Minnesota Timberwolves entered the All-Star Break on an awful note. Since January 11th, the team has gone 1-14 over their last 15 games. The only win during that stretch occurred on February 8th, where they pulled out a massive 142-115 upset victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Although Malik Beasley and Karl-Anthony Towns were both excellent, as they put up 23 and 22 points respectively, two-way guard Jordan McLaughlin was the player that pushed the team to victory. In 37 minutes, the 2nd-year guard put up career-high 24 points, 11 assists, and 4 rebounds on 11-15 from the field and 2-4 from beyond the arc.

That tremendous performance was an incredibly high point in what has been an excellent stretch for the young player. After spending the first two months of the season in the G League with Iowa, McLaughlin has received consistent minutes within Minnesota’s rotation. In his last 10 games, he averaged 8.4 points, 4.5 assists, and 1.2 steals on 53% from the field and 37% from beyond the arc on 2.7 attempts per game.

With McLaughlin getting a lot of attention due to his excellent play with Minnesota, it’s easy to forget that the team still has another solid two-way player within their organization. That forgotten man is 6’7 forward Kelan Martin, who signed a two-way after spending his rookie year playing with MHP RIESEN Ludwigsburg of the German Basketball League.

Although he’s spent some time up in the NBA with Minnesota, as he’s played a total of 370 minutes with the team, he’s spent most of his year with Iowa. For the season, the Butler alum has excelled by averaging 18.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.3 steals on 48% from the field and 39% from 3 on 6.4 attempts per game for the season.

While those are solid numbers, they don’t stack up to how he played during the few weeks before the All-Star break. In the five games leading up to the hiatus, he put up at least 23 points on 56% shooting in four of the last five games. That steady excellence allowed him to average 26.4 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1.6 steals on 60% from the field and 47% from 3 on 6.4 attempts per game during the stretch.

As evident from the numbers that he’s been putting up this year, Martin has stood out as an excellent three-point shooter while with Iowa. While he can impress as a catch-and-shoot threat, Martin’s recent explosion has come while he’s working off the dribble. In that area, he’s been incredibly entertaining to watch to the lack of fear of squaring up and putting up shots no matter where he is on the court. That confidence has allowed him to put up shots through step-backs or crossovers to create separation from the defender.

The best example of this tactic comes from the previously mentioned game against Santa Cruz. After utilizing a screen set by Jaylen Johnson, Martin uses slick handles to push defender Roger Moute a Bidias further back, which gives our subject the room needed to hit the top of the key three. Although that shot might be an example of the two-way forward being in his zone, it’s still an incredibly smooth looking jumper.

While he comfortably hit that jumper at the top of the key, it isn’t an area that he necessarily excels at as he’s shot 32% on 31 attempts. The strongest areas have come on both the left and right elbow, where he’s shooting 40% and 50%, respectively.

Kelan Martin Shotchart

Looking away from his success as a perimeter threat, Martin does a stable job of working to the paint, whether through cuts or on-ball drives. In regards to that first trait, the young forward does a great job of taking advantage of the times where his defenders either lose focus or start ball watching. During those occasions, the two-way forward starts to run towards the rim and becomes an excellent target for facilitators.

Moving on to his work as an on-ball threat, Martin has been above-average in the G League. That unenthusiastic sentence deals with how he usually needs an off-ball screen to start that drive if the defender is positioned directly in front of him. Following that screen, he becomes more of a threat through being an explosive 220-pound man that can finish through traffic.

If the restricted area remains crowded while he’s driving, Martin is still a threat due to having a floater in his offensive toolbox. Although it’s not a good shot if you rely on analytics, the Butler alum has worked to the point where it’s a gorgeous shot that allows him to score in situations that prevent him from driving to the rim.

After an unbelievable stretch where he put up some of the best performances in his young pro career, it can be easy to get excited about a player like Martin. That enthusiasm starts to become warranted when you look at how well the 24-year-old forward has performed during his full season with Iowa. However, that promise becomes realized when you watch Martin play as you’ll see a player with an electrifying outside jumper that can also get to the paint as an on or off-ball threat.

Honestly, Timberwolves fans have a right to pessimistic about him, as he’s maintained a 48% True Shooting Percentage with the big league squad. However, his smooth on-court play and great production with Iowa are the two biggest reasons why fans should remain optimistic in the young forward.