Cody Martin Sets Tone for Hornets in 2nd Season as Team’s Lead Perimeter Defender

by Sam Perley

Another member of the young Hornets core who took on a slightly different role this past season was Cody Martin, leading to the combo guard not only operating more off the ball, but also being tasked with generally guarding the opposing team’s primary wing scorer.

The now 25-year-old closed out his second NBA season with averages of 4.0 points on a personal-best 44.1% shooting, 3.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 0.7 steals over 16.3 minutes in 52 total appearances, 10 of which were starts. Martin was forced to sit out the team’s final nine overall outings following an ankle sprain he suffered at home against Miami on May 2.

“I think for a lot of people, this year was more mental than anything,” he said during exit interviews. “On the court, this was a weird year for me in terms of adjusting my game. Last year, I think I did a little more stuff on-ball, came off ball screens, down pins – whatever the case was. Adding new, very important pieces, it was about adjusting my game and doing whatever I could to impact our team in a positive way and help us win.”

Martin spent most of his on-court minutes this season at the three (76%) and two-guard (21%) positions, occasionally mixing it up as a small-ball four (3%), as well. The arrivals of Gordon Hayward and rookie LaMelo Ball led to the Nevada product’s usage rate dropping a touch this year (13.1 to 12.3%), although he found other ways to contribute by finishing second on the team in defensive rating (108.1) and third in net rating (1.0).

“This year for me was the first time I was in a position to where I was trying to find a way to be impactful out of the corners,” Martin explained. “That’s what I’m going to have to work on, continue to build off that and understand where my spots are going to be and where I’ll probably have the ball a majority of the time. I’m going to put a lot of time in those situations so when I’m in them, I’m more comfortable and confident.”

Martin connected on just 10-of-39 corner three-point shots this season (25.6%) and perhaps increased exposure in this area will only lead to that number rising higher. He also held his own in a handful of individual defensive matchups including against Kyrie Irving (1-of-5 shooting in 6:13 minutes over 3 GP), CJ McCollum (1-of-4 in 4:22 in 1 GP), De’Aaron Fox (0-of-3 in 3:48 in 2 GP), Damian Lillard (1-of-4 in 3:28 in 1 GP) and Joe Harris (1-of-4 from 3P in 2:52 in 3 GP).

“I enjoy having that challenge in going out there and guarding the best players in this league,” Martin said. “I’m going to continue working on my game, my body and find ways to challenge those guys. Those are tough covers and you have to do everything in your power to challenge them to put us in a situation to win games. It says a lot about where [the coaching staff] sees me and the confidence and trust they have in me to be out there at the end of the games.”

At the time of exit interviews in mid-May, Martin mentioned he was about a week away from being cleared to return to the court, meaning his ankle injury shouldn’t have any effect on his long-term availability. And like the rest of the roster, he’s not only encouraged with the team’s growth over a trying, battle-tested season, but also motivated by what lies ahead.

“I’m excited. I think everybody could see the potential we have here. I’m looking forward to growing with this team and continuing to get better. I think we made a lot of progress and took steps in the right direction to where we need to be at. I think we’re going to continue to do that, especially with the guys we’ve got.”

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