Last season was supposed to be the Year of Jarell. Having suffered multiple injury setbacks his rookie season—both around the draft and during the playoffs—Jarell Martin was expected to use his first full, healthy offseason to turn his flashes of potential into a rotation player of substance.
Based on those circumstances, it was hypothesized (and hoped) by many, including GBB’s own Kevin Yeung, that Martin had a chance to supplant JaMychal Green as the staring four of the present and future. Now, after a disappointing 2016-2017 campaign, Martin enters this season with nothing—not even his roster spot—guaranteed.
2016-2017 Season Overview
Per Game: 13.3 minutes; 3.9 points; 3.9 rebounds; 0.2 blocks; 0.7 turnovers
Per 36: 10.6 points, 15.1 rebounds; 0.8 blocks; 2.6 turnovers
Martin’s failure to earn a spot in the Grizzlies’ rotation wasn’t for lack of opportunity. Through the first week of January, Martin played in 38 of the Grizzlies’ 39 games, averaging 14 minutes a contest with three starts. In those games, Martin never managed to find his niche: he fouled constantly; he looked lost on defense; he wasn’t able to attack off the dribble like had in flashes the year before.
So, in January, Martin was sent to Iowa. He spent a good portion of the rest of the season there, averaging 15.9 points and 7.5 boards in 28 minutes per game. He shot 50.9% from the field and 26.9% from three. Those numbers were worse over the last part of the season. In the Energy’s last five games, Martin shot below 40% from the field four times.
It’s a little hard to project Martin’s exact role considering, depending on which report you believe, he might not be on the roster. Two weeks ago, Grizzlies beat writer Ron Tillery of the Commercial Appeal tweeted that Martin was being waived, but would be allowed to stay with the team during training camp with the possibility of impressing another team.
When asked about it at media day, Martin said he hadn’t heard any of that. So…
(To be fair, if Tillery’s report is correct, that’s something that both Martin and the team would want to avoid making a comment on.)
Since those reports, the outlook has improved for the third-year forward out of LSU. On Chris Vernon’s podcast, Andrew Harrison claimed that Martin had played better post-Vegas, where Martin wrapped several unimpressive halves around a singular impressive one. Martin delivered on Harrison’s promise in the first preseason game, a 16-point performance punctuated with an emphatic dunk over Bismack Biyombo.
If Martin keeps this up, he may end up keeping his roster spot, even cementing a place in the rotation behind JaMychal Green as the backup power forward. He may also soak in a few minutes as a reserve center. After all, per Basketball Reference, Martin played a good 68% of his rookie minutes as a five.
Best Case Scenario
Martin’s preseason continues as it started, and the Grizzlies are forced to find other places to make cuts. Behind JaMychal Green, Jarell hones his game until he’s earned the full-time role as the backup four and cements himself as (possibly) JaMychal’s successor for the offseason of 2019.
Worst Case Scenario
Martin entered the 2017 offseason in a precarious position. The Grizzlies had invested a first round pick in Martin, but he’d rewarded them with nothing more than flashes to this point. The team proved it was willing to move on from draft picks last offseason with Jordan Adams, and the overcrowded roster put Martin’s roster spot in doubt well before Tillery’s report.
Martin’s worst case happens if Monday night’s performance turns out to be a one-off rather than a new trend. Jarell fails to show any more promise, and, as Tillery tweeted, Martin finds himself the odd man out, the second first-round pick in as many seasons to be waived by the Grizzlies.
Expectations for 2017-2018
I was incredibly hopeful for Jarell going in to last season, only to be disappointed. After Summer League, I was all but ready to give up on him. I’m going to try to avoid getting my hopes too high, but for now, I’m cautiously optimistic that Martin not only makes the roster, but finds a way to contribute productive, meaningful minutes in the second unit, pulling down rebounds and helping to fill some of the offensive void left by Zach Randolph’s departure.