Writing about the infamous Kevin Love trade rumors two years ago, Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury news wrote that, Kevin Martin, "...is terrible and getting worse — if Minnesota moves on from him, it'd be the fourth team that did so, quite happily — and as he moves deeper into his 30s, this kind of zero-defense, all-shoot player typically takes a career nose-dive right about here."
Regardless of what you thought of Kawakami's statements about Martin then, he was indeed right about Martin taking a nose-dive: Martin is arguably in the middle of the worst season since his rookie year by almost any measure statistically, including PER (which Kawakami cited as the one glimmering light in his favor). Most notably, the guy who was already one of the "worst defensive players in the league" in 2014 has gotten even worse defensively by any measure, according to Basketball-Reference.
The Golden State Warriors obviously dodged a bullet there (that I am obligated to eat crow for at any chance I can).
And Martin obviously fits the profile of a San Antonio Spurs reclamation project.
As widely reported by this point, the Spurs have signed the defensively-challenged guard who the Minnesota Timberwolves recently waived looking for more offensive firepower off the bench. And while his widely documented defensive struggles might have made him a non-factor for most teams in the race to dethrone the defending champions, Gerald Bourguet of Hoops Habit rightly notes that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is probably someone who could, "...find a way to allocate him spot minutes, maximize his skill set as a spot-up shooter, and stagger his minutes against Golden State's least threatening offensive lineups to mitigate the damage he does on the other end."
So with all that in mind, we're not seeing people raise the issue of how much of a threat the Spurs are to the Warriors, especially with both the Oklahoma City Thunder and Cleveland Cavaliers being swept into a tier below the defending champs.
Reinforcing Bourguet's point, Sam Amick of USA Today Sports notes that not only was Martin best in his role as a reserve with the Thunder during the 2012-13 season, but also that the combination of Martin's signing and the return of Manu Ginobili poses a bigger threat now than many of us felt they were earlier in the season.
The Martin signing isn’t the only Spurs boon of late. Veteran guard Manu Ginobili is expected to return next week after missing a month due to a testicular injury that required surgery. And if Martin can recapture his form while fitting in with the Kawhi Leonard/LaMarcus Aldridge/Tony Parker/Tim Duncan/Ginobili group that already has the third-best offense in the league (109 points scored per 100 possessions), then even the seemingly unstoppable Warriors may have reason to worry about San Antonio. If they weren’t already.
Both Amick and Bourguet are right to note that the Spurs' defensive dominance allows them to take on Martin's shooting touch without worrying much about what he does defensively. And the fact that the Spurs have been on a hot streak since December, as Amick also points out, certainly lends credence to the notion that we should indeed have a healthy fear of the Spurs.
But this is not a normal time for Warriors fans, who are long past the days where it's reasonable to believe that we simply don't deserve nice things; this is a time when the Warriors have stood up to every challenge and used every reason to doubt them as fuel to demoralize their top competition. Without digging deeply into matchups or stats, could Kevin Martin signing with the Spurs really be the thing that breaks this pattern of Warriors dominance that seems to only be interrupted by their own boredom?
After years of conditioning it's hard to count out the Spurs, but it's similarly difficult to see Kevin Martin making that much of a difference when three teams in five years haven't been able to get much out of him.