An appreciation of KJ Martin
In the 2020 offseason, the Rockets, unbeknownst to most, were mapping out the path forward after James Harden. Even though Harden had turned down an extension and asked to be traded, people were still buying the Rockets hard posture of “willing to get uncomfortable” and resolving their issues with the star. In their defense, Harden had two more years under contract and the shortest path back to contention would’ve involved him, not embarking of a long rebuild. However, the Rockets, fully aware of the long-odds of keeping a star once they’ve asked out, spent their entire offseason acquiring first round picks and young players.
And the first young player they acquired was not someone they targeted in free agency, nor was it was it someone they drafted using one of the many first round picks they got. On draft night, the Houston Rockets traded cash considerations and a future second round pick for the draft rights of 19-year-old Kenyon Martin Jr.
While Martin was indeed the son of former first overall pick Kenyon Martin, he was far from being as highly touted as his father. In many respects, he wasn’t highly touted at all. Even though he came out of Sierra Canyon as a Top-60 high school recruit, Martin didn’t exactly bolster his draft stock by much at IMG Academy.
2020 NBA Prospect Rankings
Sporting News - 60th
The Athletic - 63rd
USA Today - 76th
Sports Illustrated - 80th
CBS Sports - Unranked
Fansided - Unranked
Bleacher Report - Unranked
The Rockets actually might’ve been able to sign Martin as an undrafted free agent if they took the risk of waiting it out. That’s just the nature of the second round. It’s a complete crap shoot with a less definitive order than the first round. These picks are viewed as scratch off lottery tickets which is why teams sell them so often.
But Houston decided to bet on this kid and oh boy, has it paid off.
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