Kenyon Martin has become a necessity for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Depth, youth and defensive competence are luxuries the Lakers have not been afforded all season, and now we can add size to the much-too-lengthy list as well.
Though Sam Amick of USA Today reported that Los Angeles had not reached out to the 35-year-old forward, that was before Hill was added to the team's list of injured casualties.
The Lakers-who cut Johnson-Odom & lost bigs D. Howard & P. Gasol today-have not reached out to free agent F Kenyon Martin,USAT has learned— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) January 7, 2013
Now, however, everything has changed.
Hill's importance to this team remains understated. Like really understated. He has provided instant rebounding and athleticism to a team that lacks both.
How much so?
To the point where Hill's offensive rebounding rate currently stands at a league-leading 19.9, a splendor the Lakers cannot afford to be without. After all, his 6.4 offensive rebounds per 36 minutes leads the NBA.
Los Angeles ranks 23rd in defensive efficiency, essentially meaning that the livelihood of this team is predicated upon the success of its sixth-ranked offense. Without Hill, a vast majority of the Lakers' second-chance points opportunities go out the window.
This convocation needs to combat such a reality with some added defense to offset the hit its offensive dynamic just withstood.
At 6'9", Martin doesn't provide the size that the 6'10" and visibly more lanky Hill does, yet he remains quite the defender. His 5.2 points and 4.3 rebounds per game with the Los Angeles Clippers last season doesn't seem like much, but his impact on the team went far beyond what showed up in the box score.
With him on the floor, the Clippers allowed just 103.1 points per 100 possessions, a number that skyrocketed to 107.5 when he took a seat. Given that the Lakers are allowing 107 points per 100 possessions right now, the value of Martin's defense cannot be overstated.
Also bear in mind that while on the hardwood last season, Martin held opposing power forwards and centers (via 82games.com) to an average PER of 14, a full point below the league average of 15.
At present, that stands to be an upgrade over what the supposedly defensively-minded Hill provided. Opposing big men were averaging a PER of 18.2 per 48 minutes with him on the floor.
Clearly, the Lakers could use a defensive stalwart like Martin. With the physically impaired Howard, the declining and oft-injured talents of Gasol and now the season-long absence of Hill, the method of attack that Martin provides has become a necessity.
And courtesy of Hill's injury, the Lakers (via Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times) may be eligible for a disabled player's exception that renders this necessity easily obtainable:
The Lakers have until Tuesday to apply for a "disabled players exception" for Jordan Hill.
It was announced on Friday that Hill will miss the remainder of the season with a hip injury that will sideline the forward-center for six months.
According to the Larry Coon's NBA Salary Cap FAQ, the Lakers can apply for an exception worth half of Hill's $3.56-million salary. There's no guarantee the league will approve the exception if the Lakers even apply for it, but if granted, the Lakers would gain about $1.78 million in additional spending power.
The Lakers can use that $1.78 million to either sign a player for the remainder of the year, or trade for one in the final year of his contract (with an additional $100,000 of leeway via trade for a $1.88-million maximum).
While this seemingly means very little to some, it could mean everything to the Lakers. Los Angeles has more than $100 million committed in payroll for the season, rendering its spending power nonexistent. This particular exception, though, affords them a disposable income that they could use to plug a hole with a bargain-priced talent.
At present, Martin is finally one of those talents.
At first, sources blamed Martin’s unwillingness to sign for the veteran’s minimum as the reason why he wasn’t signed, but even since Martin has backed off of that stance he hasn’t been picked up. Some reports have even indicated that Martin would even be willing to sign a 10-day contract in an effort to prove that he can still bring something to the table for an NBA team.
Never underestimate the effect of an athlete eager to prove himself. Martin's newfound stance not only renders him a proven difference-maker, but it makes him one with a chip on his shoulder.
And the Lakers, in all their imaginary glory, could certainly use another player with something to prove.
Because this entire team has something to prove.
Los Angeles was supposed to not just contend, but borderline run away with a championship this season.
Instead this faction has found itself toiling with obscurity, a crippling reality that Hill's injury will only further.
We can't pretend that Martin's sudden inclusion stands to be the difference between the Lakers actualizing their potential and missing the playoffs, but he does have the potential to play an integral role on a championship-caliber team.
Martin adds depth, which Los Angeles doesn't have. He can improve the defense of a second unit that is ranked 22nd in points allowed per game (32.9). He can be an additional shot-contester on a team that has one (Howard).
But most importantly, he can just be another able-bodied big on an alarmingly shallow team that has next to none.
*All stats in this article are accurate as of January 13, 2013.