Martin Rejoins Adelman, Gives Wolves Perimeter Shooting Threat

Martin Rejoins Adelman, Gives Wolves Perimeter Shooting Threat

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

Email / Twitter

From Day 1, Flip Saunders lamented it.

When he took over in early May as the Wolves’ President of Basketball Operations, Saunders insisted the team needed to improve its efficiency behind the 3-point line. The league today, he said, is a perimeter league. Not being able to score from deep means not being anywhere near the radar of a championship-caliber team.

[READ MORE: Wolves Acquire Kevin Martin Press Release]

On Thursday, the Wolves officially made a move that should rectify a constant concern for the team last year. In signing Kevin Martin—a proven 2-guard with size, scoring and 3-point shooting ability—the Wolves have a player who, in his nine seasons, has shot 38.5 percent from 3 for his career and has three times shot better than 40 percent from distance in a year. He shot 42.5 percent from 3 last season in Oklahoma City.

“He was in a system that is dominated by (Kevin) Durant and (Russell) Westbrook, how dominant they are. He was very efficient for that team,” Saunders said. “We are going to ask him to do a lot more.”

The Wolves officially announced a three-team deal on Thursday that sent Martin in a sign-and-trade to Minnesota, a trade exception to Oklahoma City and veteran guard Luke Ridnour plus a second round pick to Milwaukee. It was a deal that involved moving Ridnour—a favorite of coach Rick Adelman—in order to balance the roster and eliminate part of the log jam at point guard the team has withstood over the past two years.

Minnesota hasn’t had a proven, reliable shooting guard for much of its history, and that’s held true during the first two years of Adelman’s tenure at the helm. The veteran coach has tinkered with his lineups, but after last year’s parade of injuries to Brandon Roy, Chase Budinger and Malcolm Lee, he returned to his first year setup of having two point guards in the back court out of necessity. That meant Ridnour and J.J. Barea often spent time playing off the ball to complement star Ricky Rubio. They also used rookie Alexey Shved in that role.

But across the board, the Wolves struggled from distance. Minnesota shot 30.5 percent from 3-point range last season—some of that due to All-Star stretch 4 Kevin Love missing all but 18 games due to two hand injuries and Budinger missing four months after knee surgery. The team was desperately in need of offseason moves that could improve their perimeter threat.

Enter Kevin Martin.

Martin is an Adelman favorite who had some of his most successful seasons under Adelman in both Sacramento and Houston. It was Adelman who gave Martin his first chance to shine with the Kings. When Sacramento made a deal that sent Martin to Houston in 2009-10, Martin said last year he couldn’t pack his bags fast enough to reunite with his coach.

Part of that is likely Adelman’s almost universal appeal to his players, but part of it is the Xs and Os. Martin is a scoring threat who works best in the motion offense Adelman wishes to run. He uses back cuts and off-the-ball movement to his advantage, and when healthy he has the ability to “chalk in 18 points per night” as Saunders said on Thursday.

Saunders said he can feel the enthusiasm from Martin when it comes to reuniting with Adelman and helping the Wolves take that next step.

“We’ve been talking and texting daily, and he’s excited about coach Adelman and he’s excited about the aggressiveness we’ve shown in making this team better and bringing in pieces that make Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic better,” Saunders said. “There’s no question he has a lot of excitement in where this team is going.”

In knowing Adelman’s offense and how he likes to approach the game, Martin does bring veteran knowledge and familiarity to Minnesota. Adelman and his staff is incredibly versatile with what they teach, often tweaking the style of play on a by season or by game basis. In Minnesota, they’ve needed to rely far more on pick-and-roll than they would’ve liked, but injuries have dictated some of the progress the team has tried to make in implementing their playbook.

That means with health there could be a little more depth to what the coaching staff will add to their offensive sets this year. Martin can be a coach on the floor in that regard.

“He will be able to teach our guys the offense better than anybody,” Saunders said. “There is no question we’re getting a player who knows the system so well and knows how to play.”

Saunders did say losing Ridnour was a difficult decision given the professionalism and character he’d shown during his time with the Wolves. Ridnour essentially played out of position as a starting 2-guard much of last year and rotated into that role the year before, but he did it willingly in order to help the team.

With as many point guards as the Wolves had on the roster, balancing things out was essential. Saunders said the combination of Ridnour’s durability last year, his background as a starter and his status with one year left on his contract all factored into his marketability. Given Milwaukee already had him once—he spent two seasons with the Bucks before signing with Minnesota—they know the type of player they’re getting in Ridnour.

“Sometimes you have to give up things you don’t really want to, but you’re trying to get to that end (goal) and sometimes it’s the best way to do it,” Saunders said. “Sometimes over the long haul you have to give something up.”

In this scenario, the Wolves are getting the size and scoring they desperately wanted on the perimeter. That’s a tradeoff the team is willing to make.

For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter, and join the conversation at