In the wake of this week’s James Harden trade, a lot has been made from the Philadelphia 76ers’ fan base about the use of future draft capital and cap space, but not as much about the four players coming over from Los Angeles. Of those four, three are at relatively similar stages of their NBA careers. Marcus Morris Sr., Nic Batum and Robert Covington are all in their early-to-mid-thirties, making at least $11 million this season. KJ Martin is a little different, just 22 years old and making $1.93 million at the end of his rookie deal after going 52nd overall in the 2020 NBA draft.
Sixers fans know first-hand how funky that draft was during the COVID year that cut the college basketball season short without an NBA tournament. Tyrese Maxey probably doesn’t fall to 21st overall under normal circumstances (and thank goodness he did), and the Sixers already found a rotation player at the tail end of that draft with Paul Reed having been selected 58th overall. (Also, in an alternate timeline, Isaiah Joe is bombing threes for Nick Nurse right now.)
Could KJ Martin be another Sixers success from that 2020 draft class? He’ll have about a six-month audition to prove the team should keep him around past this season, something that would be made easier by the fact that they possess his Bird Rights.
Martin has already experienced modest NBA success, averaging 12.7 points and 5.5 rebounds with the Houston Rockets last season. His 33.8 percent career rate from three on low volume, however, is something that will need to be improved upon to stick around as a wing at this level. We do know the young man has elite athleticism, which was on display during the 2023 NBA Dunk Contest (there’s no shame in losing within a field that includes former Sixers legend Mac McClung):
Upon his arrival in Philadelphia, Martin described the process of being traded:
“I kinda understood what the NBA life was like. Obviously, my dad [Kenyon Martin] played for 15 years so he was always in my ear growing up. Especially, when I got injured, you know what I’m saying? Just explaining to me some stuff might not go the way you want to and obviously, it’s just kinda tough. I got traded to LA. I was back home with my family stuff like that and then it was a day ago, I got traded here, so…I feel like it’s a good situation, though. I’m really excited.”
Martin was then asked to elaborate on what makes it a good situation:
“I know (Nick) Nurse, his coaching style, just from playing Toronto and stuff like that. He likes athletic guys. Obviously, I can defend the ball, play fast, and Rico Hines, he’s been working me out since I was like 15? So I’ve known Rico. He’s the one who really helped me, you know what I’m saying? Workout with NBA guys and kinda get me ready so I’m glad I’m here with him and he’s somebody I’ve worked on my game with every day.”
After going from Houston to Los Angeles and now Philadelphia, Martin was asked how he thinks he fits in with this current Sixers group:
“I fit in great. Obviously, I know the head of the snake is Joel and he brings a lot of attention. He gets double teamed a lot and stuff like that so that can help me play to my strengths cutting, you know what I’m saying? Doing whatever and I feel like we got a good balance of everything. Obviously, Tyrese, he’s my age. He was in my draft class. I’ve known Tyrese since we played in high school. De’Anthony from LA, we played in the same conference in high school, so I’m familiar with a lot of guys out here, and obviously, Cov, Marcus, and Nico coming with me from L.A. so it’s gonna be good.”
Martin continued on about whether the familiarity helps:
“For sure. 1000%. We already have that relationship so that helps—that’s the biggest thing is having a relationship off the court and on the court, it’s just you know what I’m saying? Figuring out. Most of the guys, they know my strengths. We were in LA this past summer playing at Rico so they kinda know what I can do and they’re ready for it.”
Still on his rookie deal, Martin is obviously an unfinished product. He laid out what he believes to be the next steps in his development:
“Just working on my shot. I feel like this summer, I took a step forward in it, but staying super consistent and ball-handling and stuff like that. Me, I understand guys on my team and what their strengths are. Like how to just play around them, help them get open, and just use my athleticism.”
Young, athletic wings are always going to be in demand, especially for a Sixers team that had a short supply of them in recent years. While the trade with the Clippers may have provided many other benefits for this Sixers franchise, we’ll see if Martin becoming a fixture in Philadelphia will end up being yet another one.