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March 22, 2011
Creating the Contact
How Martin Gets to the Line

by Sebastian Pruiti


Kevin Martin is an incredibly efficient offensive player, scoring at a rate of 1.10 points per possession, which is good for 16th in the NBA (out of players with at least 50 total possessions used), despite his low field-goal percentage. Martin actually ranks 261st in terms of field-goal percentage, shooting 43.4 percent from the floor this season. So how has Martin been so highly efficient despite the average field goal percentage? He gets to the foul line.

Martin's True Shooting Percentage (TS%), which takes three-pointers and foul shots into consideration, is 60.3 percent (21st in the NBA out of players who play 15+ minutes per game in at least 20 games), well above the league average of 54.5 percent. In terms of free throw rate (FTR), Martin ranks third out of all guards who have at least 20 games played with a FTR of 0.540, well above the league average 0.257.

One of the reasons why Martin is able to get to the free throw line so much is that he stays aggressive and has an ability to draw fouls not just in iso sets, but also while spotting up and when he is the ballhandler in the pick-and-roll.

On possessions labeled as isolations, Martin gets to the line 26.5 percent of the time, good for third in the entire NBA out of players with more than 30 iso possessions over the course of the season. The reason why Martin is able to get to the line is because once he has the defense out of position, he uses body control to create contact and draw fouls:

Here, the Rockets run a set for Martin, and after bobbling the basketball they clear things out for him. Martin crosses over his man and gets his defender on his hip. Instead of going straight up with it, Martin jumps back into his man, drawing the foul on the shot attempt.

On this play, Martin catches his defender, Ray Allen, off guard and attacks the lane. This forces help from Nenad Krstic to come, and as he is coming over, Martin simply leans his body into Krstic, creating contact and drawing the foul.

On possessions labeled as spot-ups by Synergy, Martin gets to the free throw line 13.2 percent of the time, which is sixth in the NBA (out of players who have more than 30 spot-up possessions). Martin is able to use his unorthodox shooting motion and pump fake to get defenders off balance and draw fouls. It is no secret that Martin has a strange shooting motion, and as a result, he has an unorthodox pump fake as well. Martin's pump fake involves bringing the ball out away from his body and up, getting the defense to bite more often than not:

Here, Martin makes the catch a good 30 feet away from the basket. Despite that, Martin still throws a pump fake at his defender, Brandon Roy. Martin's pump fake gets Roy up in the air, and once that happens, Martin jumps into Roy, drawing the foul and getting to the three-point line.

On this play, Martin gets the basketball passed to him on a drive and kick. As Martin makes the catch, he throws a pump fake at his defender. With Martin's pump fake bringing the basketball away from his body, the defender gets tempted and reaches in. Once that happens, Martin rips the basketball (and his arms) through the defender, drawing the foul.

As the ballhandler in the pick-and-roll, Martin draws a foul 13.6 percent of the time, which is good for 26th in the entire NBA (again, out of those with at least 30 pick-and-roll possessions). The reason why Martin is able to get to the line here is because the defense is forced to switch/hedge hard on him due to his shooting ability. That creates a mismatch, and Martin is able to take advantage of that mismatch by jumping into the body of the bigger defender, drawing the foul.

On this play, Martin comes off of the screen and the big hedging is forced to switch onto him. With this speed advantage, Martin is able to get the big on his hip, and because they are moving, when Martin jumps into him, he draws the foul and gets sent to the free throw line.

Here, Martin comes off of the screen towards the baseline and Darko Milicic is forced to pick him up. With the slower defender covering him, Martin pump fakes. Because Milicic knows that he is slower than Martin, he feels like he has to make up for that by anticipating. So when Martin pump fakes, Milicic leaves his feet to challenge the shot, jumping into Martin and fouling him.

What makes Martin so dangerous when he is drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line is that he is not sacrificing his shot to draw the foul. What I mean by that is Martin is still getting a good look at the rim most of the time when he is fouled. The advantage of that is that if the foul isn't called, he is still getting a good shot at the rim. Also, if it does get called, Martin has a better chance at making the shot as he gets fouled, getting the and one. According to Hoopdata.com, Martin has drawn the foul and made the shot on 4.1 percent of his attempts from the field, good for 12th out of all guards in the NBA who have played in at least 20 games at 15 minutes per game or more.

On this play, Martin is able to get his man behind him. Instead of simply taking the floater, Martin hesitates, letting his man run into him and creating contact before he puts the shot up. Martin stays under control after getting the contact, allowing him to still finish despite the foul.

Here, Martin gets his man on his hip along the baseline and jumps back into him as he attempts his floater. This is the key here. Martin isn't jumping into his defender, creating the contact, and then shooting (something that would result in an off-balance shot). He's getting the shot off as the contact is created, giving himself a better chance to get a make as he gets fouled.

For Martin, the combination of his unorthodox shooting motion, he shooting ability, and his basketball smarts is what allows him to get to the free throw line so much and become an efficient offensive player. His shooting motion is hard to predict, so when he pump fakes, he gets a lot of defenders reaching and leaning. Because of Martin's shooting ability, when he comes off of screens, the defense needs to hedge on him, creating mismatches that lead to fouls. Finally, Martin's smarts and savvy lead to a lot of fouls where he gets his man on hip and stops, allowing him to create the contact as he gets a shot up.

Sebastian Pruiti is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Sebastian by clicking here or click here to see Sebastian's other articles.

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