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Observation Deck

Kings' Martin clearly most improved, and more notes

Posted: Tuesday March 6, 2007 6:22PM; Updated: Tuesday March 6, 2007 6:50PM
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Kevin Martin's body of work for the season makes for an award-winning performance.
Kevin Martin's body of work for the season makes for an award-winning performance.

It's a long season, we wholly submit, and that's usually enough justification for the players who play the game and the media who cover it to lose their collective focus and concentrate on the flavors of the month that usually turn up in February, March and April. If that means scribes end up picking the team that finished with the best record down the stretch to win it all, fine -- nobody gets hurt with a semi-educated guess. But when deserving players are passed over for well-earned hardware, it's time to raise some hackles.

Some hackles have already been shot a mile high. Sactown Royalty's Tom Ziller's sterling defense of Kevin Martin trumps what you're about to read: His date of publication precedes mine, to say nothing of the statistical breakdown to back things up, topped off with an impassioned fan-positioned-yet-remarkably-objective take that drives the point home. Still, the idea bears repeating: It'll be a crime if Kevin Martin doesn't rout the competition in this year's Most Improved Player vote.

Just because some writers have been used to the idea of Martin as a great player for longer than they've been comfortable with the idea of Monta Ellis and Al Jefferson as good (skinny Monta) or really good (Big Al) players doesn't mean they should be wasting their vote on anyone besides the Kings' superscorer. What was right in November remains "right" right now, and Martin's play has become more and more righteous.

And even with stats thrown out the window, the very tone of the award's description (the idea of improving as a player, not just contributing the type of improved statistics that come from increased minutes) should hand the award to Martin in a landslide. He can drive and finish with either hand, score after jumping off either foot and sustain his contributions even after hitting the 35-minute mark. He's actually improved, not just played for longer stretches.

It isn't usually worth it to get worked up over postseason awards, but the idea of not giving well-deserved rewards to certain talents because some voters can't recall any games past the typical Shaq vs. Kobe Christmas matinee is a little distressing.

• Orlando is hanging in there, tied for the eighth (and final) playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with the New Jersey Nets, a half game ahead of the New York Knicks. And though the Magic are still a top 10 defensive team, their issues with turnovers could probably send them back to the lottery for the fourth straight year.

Orlando is tied with Denver for last in the league in miscues per game, at 16.4, but one can't ignore the fact that the Nuggets average about eight more possessions than the Magic do. Once you take into account the Magic's slowed-down attack, their turnover rate of 19.2 for every 100 possessions leaves one wondering just how they've made it this far in the playoff hunt. The next-closest team, those Knicks, average 18.5 per 100 possessions, with the third worst (Indiana) way ahead at 17.8. Detroit, while we're at it, leads the NBA at 14.1 per 100.

Big men Dwight Howard, Darko Milicic and Bo Outlaw are the worst transgressors, coughing it up a little more than six times a game in over 70 combined minutes. Howard tends to be a little careless with the ball, Milicic is a mite indecisive and Outlaw just doesn't seem to like it in his hands. Outlaw turns the ball over in 24.3 percent of the possessions he takes part in, and after 410 minutes so far this season, those tend to add up. Remember this the next time you hear the local Orlando media complaining about the point-guard rotation of Jameer Nelson and Carlos Arroyo, whose turnover-per-possession marks are actually better than Steve Nash's.


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