Clutch Isn't Cool. You Know What's Cool? Superclutch.
If you have ESPN Insider and a stout constitution, you should go read Tom Haberstroh‘s post on the Timberwolves in general and Kevin Martin in particular in the superclutch (defined as one possession games in the final minute) right here.
But if you don’t, let me share the highlights (read: lowlights).
I present to you the single craziest stat of the 2013-14 season: In one-possession games (score within three) in the final minute — also known as “superclutch” situations — the Timberwolves have been outscored by 49 points in 22 minutes of action this season. I repeat: 49 points.
Minnesota’s opponents have scored 96 points to the Timberwolves’ 47. The Timberwolves have been more than doubled up in these tight situations. The result is that, when it should be a coin flip in these situations, Minnesota has lost 18 of those 25 games.
That’s bad. A lot of the blame for how the Wolves have come up short has fallen on Ricky Rubio — even from Adelman, who spent a good chunk of the season holding Rubio out of late-game situations because of his shaky shooting. Rubio doesn’t escape blame from Haberstroh, who points out that Rubio-Love pick and rolls do not late-game manna make, but the lion’s share of the blame falls on Kevin Martin. It turns out, this isn’t the first time a team he’s on has struggled in these situations.
[D]espite his remarkable scoring numbers, Martin is almost unplayable in clutch situations. He doesn’t thrive in the clutch play call of choice, the standard pick-and-roll. He hunts for foul calls, which is not a profitable venture in crunch time when referees tend to swallow their whistle. And to top it all off, he’s a matador on defense waiting to be exploited.
If you have followed Martin’s career, you may have noticed that most of his teams are horrible in the clutch. When dissecting the Timberwolves’ crunch-time woes earlier this season just before the All-Star break, I discovered that only two teams in almost two decades (since the NBA StatsCube database began tracking this stuff in 1997) had been blown out in final-minute-game-within-three scenarios like this season’s Timberwolves: the 2008-09 Sacramento Kings and 2010-11 Houston Rockets.
The common thread? Yep, Martin was on all three teams.
But that was before the All-Star break when I ran those numbers. Chew on this one: Of the seven worst teams in superclutch plus-minus since 1997, four of them employed Martin.
The fourth team not mentioned in the text there is the 2006-07 Kings. None of this is to say that Martin is not a valuable basketball player, but it does maybe point to the question of what his role on the Timberwolves should be going forward, particularly if the team is invested in Rubio. Martin might struggle in the superclutch, but pairing him with Rubio looks like it might be absolute kryptonite for the team in close games. Call me crazy, but without considering the draft possibilities at the 13th spot, would it be that strange to start Brewer at SG and Budinger at SF if he’s healthy next season? Brewer often looked really good on smaller shooting guards, plus it opens up more opportunities for getting out on the break just by nature of where shots from SGs come from versus SFs. Then Martin is a high-scoring super-sub. Maybe it’s crazy.
But man, so is the stat that Haberstroh dug up.