Season Recap: Cody Martin’s Game Stands Out in Do-It-All Rookie Season

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The Charlotte Hornets targeted Cody Martin in the 2019 NBA Draft as a versatile player with a wide-ranging skillset, and their intel proved to be spot on as the guard consistently showcased advanced intuition, elite athleticism and maturity throughout his rookie season.

Taken with the 36th overall pick last June, Martin kicked off his rookie campaign on the fringes of the Hornets rotation. It took until only his fifth NBA appearance to understand why the organization was so high on him after he made a series of crucial plays down the stretch in Golden State on Nov. 2, which helped seal a 93-87 road victory against the Warriors.

It quickly became clear that despite limited box score numbers, Martin’s impact would be measured in intangibles like hustle, attentiveness and on-court smarts. Over 16 appearances between Oct. 25 and Nov. 27, the Nevada product averaged roughly three points, two rebounds, an assist and a steal before receiving a G League assignment.

Playing alongside his identical twin brother Caleb on the Greensboro Swarm just down the road from his hometown of Mocksville, NC, Martin racked up averages of 18.4 points on 59 percent shooting (40 percent from three; 10-of-25), 8.2 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 2.0 steals in five outings before being recalled back to Charlotte in early December.

“[Going to Greensboro] just gave me the opportunity to work on the things they wanted me to work on,” Martin said. “They wanted me to shoot the three-ball with a little bit more confidence. When it comes to handling the ball, coming off ball screens, making decisions, those things don’t just happen overnight. I went to Greensboro, and I think I played well. When I got moved back up, it helped me incorporate what I had already been working on.”

Martin reentered the rotation on a close-to-full-time basis, racking up averages of 5.7 points on 47 percent shooting, 3.2 rebounds and 1.5 assists over his next 21 outings. A concussion knocked him out for three contests right before the All-Star Break, but he closed out the season with marks of 6.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.1 steals over the team’s final 11 games.

On the year, the 24-year-old averaged 5.0 points on 43.0 percent shooting, 3.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 0.8 steals in 48 appearances, three of which were starts. He also ranked ninth in the NBA in total charges drawn (14), the most by any rookie (even with the shortened season) since Atlanta’s Malcolm Delaney registered 15 in 2016-17.

During exit interviews in early June, Hornets Head Coach James Borrego called out both Martin brothers as key contributors to the team’s improved play over the final few weeks of the regular season.

“That was probably our best stretch of basketball,” Borrego said. “The Martin brothers had a lot to do with it, and Jalen [McDaniels] as well. You never know what to expect when you put these young players in that type of environment. They rose to the challenge. The one thing I can say is they worked their tails off all year to put themselves in that position. I didn’t shy away from that because we saw what they were doing behind the scenes. Extremely coachable, worked hard, wanted to get better, wanted to play for each other, and they all played extremely hard.”

“Being able to be in those [big games] gave me confidence, and it showed that not only my teammates, but the staff had confidence in me to be in those situations,” Martin said. “That was something that was important for me. and something I take pride in is just being ready. Going out there, I already know I’m going to play hard and at 100 percent. It’s about executing the game plan and learning once I’m in there.”

Between getting drafted, becoming a key rotational NBA player and playing alongside his twin brother again in their home state, it’s been quite a year for Cody Martin. The circumstances certainly haven’t gone unnoticed and now, he’s only going to keep working harder and harder to get better.

“To not only be back home, but be here with my brother, my family and people that I haven’t gotten to see a lot and for them to see [us] play at the highest level, it means a lot. We’re blessed and we have to thank the organization for giving us the opportunity. All we can really do is go out there and make sure we’re improving every day. Be professional and make sure we’re not only representing ourselves, but the organization in the right way.”