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2020 NBA Draft Profiles: Kenyon Martin Jr.

Are the Grizzlies in the K-Mart market?

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HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL: JAN 21 Spalding Hoophall Classic Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Kenyon Martin Jr., Small Forward, IMG Academy (HS – Post-Graduate)

  • 6’7”, 215 lbs, 19 years old, from West Hills, California
  • 2019-20 season (IMG): 20.4 points per game, 8 rebounds per game, 35 FG% from three, 67% from the free throw line
  • Career: Oakland Soldiers – Nike 17U 2018-19: 10 games played, 12.4 points per game, 9.7 rebounds per game, 1 assist per game, 1.8 blocks per game, 0.6 steals per game, 57.1% field goal percentage (14% from three on 7 attempts), 63% from the free throw line

Sierra Canyon (CA) 2018-19: 16.7 points per game, 9.8 rebounds per game

  • ACCOLADES: 4-star recruit, ESPN Top 100 Recruit for 2020 Class
  • CURRENT BIG BOARD RANKINGS: 52nd (CBS Sports), 55th (ESPN), 58th (Tankathon)

As the NBA gets more athletic and offenses move further from the basket, one thing was proven this season and that is “small-ball” lineups are here to stay. In the current NBA, a 6’5” Power Forward like P.J. Tucker and a 6’7” Power Forward/Center in Draymond Green are more common place than fans would have imagined a few years ago. Teams no longer focus on the dominant center to build their teams around. In some lineups, the traditional back to the basket Center is now unplayable as lineups get smaller and big men acquire assets of guards.

The Grizzlies are currently in a great position with young, athletic bigs Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke alongside the more traditional Center in Jonas Valanciunas. With the 40th overall pick, they could forgo a wing shooter and enter the market for a smaller big for small-ball lineups to add to the next generation Grizzlies, adding more versatility to the lineups Taylor Jenkins is able to deploy.

K-Mart is under new management. Five years after the retirement of Kenyon Martin, IMG Academy’s Kenyon Martin Jr. will look to continue to usher in the new era of smaller power forwards who can stretch the floor and have the capability to defend the positions three through five. Martin Jr. will be on the board at forty, the question is should he be an option for the Grizzlies?

What he does well

Sierra Canyon v Mayfair Photo by Cassy Athena/Getty Images

There is an old saying that goes “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

For anyone that saw Kenyon Martin Sr. play in his prime, that is the first thought as you watch Kenyon Martin Jr.’s athleticism immediately stands out. The 6’7” Power Forward, with the potential to evolve into a wing, possesses a high degree of athleticism that allows him to thrive offensively both in the half court and in fast break situations. The quickness and explosiveness Martin Jr. possesses allowed him to live above the rim on both sides of the floor with emphatic dunks on the offensive side of the ball and being a defensive force sending opposing players shots into the stands consistently.

For a player of his age, he is a decent defender both in the paint and on the perimeter using his strength and athleticism to his advantage. I believe that honoring his original commitment to Vanderbilt would have given a better measuring stick of where he is defensively but whether it be at Sierra Canyon (CA), IMG Academy, or the AAU circuit Martin showed good instincts as a rebounder and shot blocker but as someone who could simply strive off of athleticism at the high school level he is still developing in a lot of ways.

How he can Improve

Kenyon Martin Jr. is far from a finished product coming out of high school but the tools are there to develop over time as he is still a work in progress.

After years of living in the post, Martin made strides as a perimeter player by expanding his range to the high school three point line with jump shot mechanics that will surely be tweaked upon his arrival to the NBA. While his form isn’t terrible, there is some reluctance to use it with only seven three point attempts for the season in the stats provided and very few highlights of him using the shot. Instead, Martin Jr. opted to use his athleticism to get to basket and use his always dependable athleticism. In order to reach his max ceiling, he will have to continue to improve his perimeter scoring adding the ability to expand the floor and making NBA defenders respect his jump shot as much as his ability to rise above them.

While his youth is a positive as NBA teams love to bring in young talent, his lack of experience against high caliber teams will most likely be entertained. While Martin Jr. did play on two of the best high school teams in his prep career in Sierra Canyon (CA) and IMG Academy as well as on the Nike Elite circuit, playing alongside and against some of the better players in the country most of these players are as unpolished as he is as they are still finding their strengths and weaknesses on the floor. A positive is Kenyon Martin Jr. didn’t look out of place going up against pros in the 2019 Drew League as he, LSU’s Shareef O’Neal, and the Washington WizardsGary Payton II went head to head with current and former pros as well as high-level athletes for weeks.

Kenyon Martin Jr. is a work in progress right now but as he matures and improves the finished product could lead to another great athletic tweener like Aaron Gordon.

The fit and verdict

CIF Open Division Playoffs: Bishop Montgomery v Sierra Canyon Photo by Cassy Athena/Getty Images

In the song “It’s in Da Game” from the NBA Live 2005 soundtrack, St. Louis rapper Murphy Lee raps “Fast break with Jason Kidd, Kenyon Martin in the air alley-oop is what I mean,” and in that one line I see Kenyon Martin Jr.’s fit at the NBA level with the Memphis Grizzlies. Kenyon Martin Jr. would give the Grizzlies another person to get out and run and catch lobs from Ja Morant and Tyus Jones as the Grizzlies embrace their newfound athleticism.

Kenyon Martin Jr. is still a few years away from being able to contribute at the NBA level. With his addition, Martin Jr. would add a type of player the Grizzlies haven’t had on the roster since James Johnson in 2014 as an athletic smaller forward that can be used at two or three different positions. This level of versatility will be appreciated, but until his jump shot improves it would be hard to get minutes over Justise Winslow, Kyle Anderson, Brandon Clarke, or Jaren Jackson Jr. Martin could spend most of the season competing against NBA-caliber competition in Southaven as a member of the Memphis Hustle as he continues to mature and improve on both ends of the floor.

I have no doubt that Kenyon Martin Jr. will be available when the Grizzlies are on the clock to draft with the 40th pick. The Grizzlies will likely keep an eye on his status but opt for more NBA ready prospects with their selection but we are close to once again having Kenyon Martin (Junior) holding it down in the low post, crashing the boards and throwing ‘bows.

Verdict: Kenyon Martin Jr. is a young project that a team can go late in the second round or undrafted altogether. He’ll be available with the 40th pick but I would expect them to pass on a more polished college product. If he were to go undrafted, I believe the Grizzlies could take a flier on him as a camp invite, with a chance to play for the Memphis Hustle or playing for a two-way contract.

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