After being selected 25th overall by the Grizzlies in last year’s draft, Martin arrived in Memphis surrounded by talk of "soft promises" and workout shutdowns. Martin's Grizzly career immediately got off on the wrong foot, so to speak. A pair of foot injuries first kept Martin out of Summer League, then delayed his professional debut.
Martin finally premiered for the Grizzlies on December 18 against the Dallas Mavericks. From there, his appearances were few and far between as he bounced back and forth between Memphis and Iowa. At the end of February, Martin was only just making his fifth appearence.
Everyone knows the story from there. A wave of injuries hit, and the Grizzlies were reduced to the NBA misfit squad. Yet the same plaugue that brought Memphis Jordan Farmar and PJ Hariston also brought the silver lining that was Jarell Martin, who went from an Energy guy to a regular member of the rotation.
Per Game: 14.1 minutes; 5.7 points; 3.2 rebounds; 0.6 assists; 0.3 steals; 0.3 blocks
Per 36 minutes: 14.5 points; 8.1 rebounds; 1.4 assists; 0.8 steals; 0.7 blocks
Martin's numbers aren't eye-popping, by any means, but they're also not an abject disaster. Based on the small sample of data available, the LSU product was a net zero per 100 possessions: 110 ORtg, 110 DRtg.
Martin came out of college as a power forward, but he spent the majority of his minutes at center (68%). He rebounded well, particularly on the offensive end, but left room for some improvement on finishing near the rim.
In other words, Martin was a typical rookie. He did some things well, he did some things less well. But, given the expectations for Martin after the draft and the injuries, and in spite of the fact that he only saw the floor due to injuries to veterans, Martin showed flashes of potential that should only encourage the Grizzlies.
It's safe to assume Jarell will be a key piece of Fizdale's rotation, but his role may start out as somewhat fluid. JaMychal Green just received a promotion to the starting lineup, pushing Z-Bo to the backup power forward spot and muddying up Brandan Wright's role just a bit. And that doesn't even factor in Parsons as an option for small ball.
Based on his usage last season, Martin should see plenty of time at the five. GBB's own Matt Hrdlicka did a deep dive on Martin during the Grizzlies’ brief playoff run, and, as Matt points out, there's a lot to like about what Jarell showed last season. He's an able rebounder with quick feet who plays strong. It's an arsenal of tools that Fizdale should be able to sharpen.
However, the logjam in the frontcourt, along with the fact that Martin's only entering his second NBA season (and first fully healthy one), make it tricky to project a set number of minutes, but Martin's talent demands playing time. Whether it's as a small ball five next to Z-Bo, or eating extra minutes as a power forward, Fizdale will certainly find ways to get Martin on the floor.
Best Case Scenario
JaMychal Green just took over Z-Bo’s starting spot. He’s the hot topic at the moment. But Jarell Martin may be the player with the higher ceiling. In Jarell’s best case scenario, he winds up passing JaMychal by the end of the year.
That’s going to be a challenge. Green is getting starts, and Martin is just entering his second season. Plus, for all the reasons outlined above, Martin has a less clear path to playing time. But even given those constraints, it’s conceivable that Martin’s development winds up passing Green by the time the season ends. And, in the long run, if that happens this season, that will pay big dividends for the Grizzlies in the long run.
Worst Case Scenario
Outside of suffering another foot injury, Martin's worst case scenario centers around underperformance more than anything. Fizdale should be able to find ways to get Martin onto the floor, even without resting older frontcourt players, so the chances of Martin getting buried on the bench a la Dave Joerger are slim.
The biggest concern for Martin is figuring out what Martin's ceiling is. Right now, based on the small sample we've seen, Martin looks like something from a solid rotation piece to a potential starter. The hope is that he can smooth those rough edges and shape himself into a potential building block for the future. If not, Grizzly fans may find themselves lamenting what might have been. And, more importantly, it may strip them of leverage with JaM.
At the moment, JaMychal Green is garnering more attention, and with good reason. Green is replacing one of the most beloved figures in the history of the franchise in the starting lineup. On the last year of his contract before he hits restricted free agency, JaMychal has been put in prime position to make himself a lot of money.
But in spite of (or maybe because of) that, Jarell's season bears watching just as closely. Martin is four years Green's junior, and Green is about to enter restricted free agency. In other words. Green is about to get a lot more expensive. And at this point, Green might not end up as the better of the two options.
Right now, Martin is a young player with an intriguing array of tools and a world of potential. How much of that potential is realized on the court this season will go a long way to determing the future, not only of himself, but of several other key pieces to the Grizzlies.