Previewing the 2014-15 Pistons: Cartier Martin

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Can perennial NBA vagabond Cartier Martin carve out a niche with the Pistons?

Cartier Martin was one of the more intriguing signings of the offseason – not because of his impact on the court but because he was signed early in free agency. That’s not usually the case for a player who has survived mostly on 10-day contracts. But Stan Van Gundy had a list of targets and among the guys expecting to accept the minimum and Martin was at the top of his list. To make sure he didn’t field any other offers Van Gundy even added a second guaranteed year to his deal.

And, honestly, it’s not surprising that Van Gundy had his eye on Martin. The 29-year-old has played more than 3,000 minutes and connected on 38 percent of his threes. And 3-point shooting was definitely the thing Van Gundy prized most this offseason.

2013-14 Year in Review

Martin played the most games and most minutes of his career last season with the Atlanta Hawks and a short six-game cup of coffee with the Chicago Bulls. In Atlanta Martin was asked to do one thing and do it well and that was shoot 3-pointers. That’s the niche he’s carved out for himself in the NBA and for the past four years more than half of his shot attempts have been from deep. During that span, he has shot 39.4, 38.7, 39.7 and 39.1 percent from the perimeter.

Martin really flourished in coach Mike Budenholzer’s wide open perimeter attack that maximized the number of shooters on the floor and gave players free reign to take open shots. And Budenholzer’s philosophy matches up pretty well with what can be expected from Van Gundy’s offense.

And while Martin was able to capitalize from the perimeter, he doesn’t offer much more on the offensive end. In reviewing video of Martin’s career-best season with the Hawks it became clear that Martin was not looked at to create any offense. His job was to exploit defenders that sagged off of him as point guard Jeff Teague drove into the lane. But he was much more than a safety valve or someone who was asked to swing the ball around. He was in the game to shoot and he did not hesitate when given even the slightest opening.

This is an example of how, even with a hand in his face, Martin can get his shot off.

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As the Pistons look to take much greater advantage of the pick-and-rollĀ  — Brandon Jennings is nothing if not a crafty passer and the Pistons’ strength remains its big men down low – players such as Martin will be able to get minutes if they can consistently knock down the inevitably open shots coming their way.

But when he tries to do more than just shoot bad things start to happen. Martin had more turnovers than assists last season and he’s a subpar finisher at the rim. While not exactly Austin Daye-ish, Martin can get flustered when opponents apply ball pressure or he tries to take it into the paint.

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That is the interior defense of the Detroit Pistons. One of the worst Ds in the league and Martin turns it over with an ill-conceived pass to a big man because he couldn’t handle the ball pressure … of the Pistons. So don’t ask him to drive.

But he’s not nearly as limited defensively, where Martin rates as altogether adequate or even above average at the wing. The Hawks gave up slightly less points with Martin on the court compared to off, for what that’s worth, which isn’t a heck of a lot, but it’s what we have.

2014-15 Projected Production

Martin’s path to playing time is seemingly blocked by a number of players. Kyle Singler and Caron Butler seem to be battling it out for the small forward position, and the shooting guard job looks like a scrum between Jodie Meeks and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Martin is on the outside looking in and is in a similar boat as Luigi Datome and Jonas Jerebko as far as trying to fight their way into the rotation.

So there is an extremely good chance that Martin sees limited action this season. But that’s what they say about Martin every season and he manages to find a place for himself in the lineup. He’s played 870, 694, 391 and 542 minutes the past four season.

If Singler struggles or Butler shows his age, or if there is an injury at either wing position, the Pistons, for the first time in forever, will have depth and won’t miss too much on either end of the floor. Look at Martin this way, he’s the Pistons’ version of the Anthony Morrow signing everyone (including myself) was pining for — the perimeter shooter who gives you little else on the offensive side of the floor. Morrow played twice as many minutes as Martin but hoisted only 44 more 3-pointers. Yes he converted at a superior rate (45 percent to 39 percent), but he’s also invisible on defense. In the end he’s probably 80 percent of the player for 33 percent of the price.

That being said, you have to put him on the floor with players that can handle the ball because it’s not something you can expect Martin to contribute. A bench unit of Martin, KCP Jerebko and Bynum clearly wouldn’t work because the offense would either consist of people standing around while Bynum plays hero ball, or you’ll have players trying to force the issue and inevitably cough it up. But put Martin on the floor with, say, D.J. Augustin, Jodie Meeks and Josh Smith and you’ll have a player who can exploit the opportunities that come to him as defenders collapse on Smith or Augustin.

Last season, the Pistons had a series of question marks on the bench and prayed that someone would take a step forward, revert to form or come in and contribute right away. It didn’t happen. This year, the Pistons might have their issues but depth at the wing is not one of them. And if Martin needs to play he will be a positive contributor.

Prediction

I’m going to go way out on a limb and say that Josh Smith will get traded and part of the package will be Kyle Singler. This will open up time for Martin who will contribute:

68 games, 17 minutes per game, 7 points, 2 rebounds, 39.5 3PT%, 44.0 FG%, 75.0 FT%

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