Free Agent Forward Could Elevate Warriors’ Bench Attack

Caleb Martin Stephen Curry Warriors-Heat

Getty Caleb Martin defends Stephen Curry during a game between the Miami Heat and the Golden State Warriors.

Despite the hope, perhaps even the expectation, that the Golden State Warriors would fight tooth and nail to retain as many members of their championship-winning roster as possible, team president Bob Myers and his brain trust took a different route with their free agents.

Save for Kevon Looney — who re-upped for three years and $25 million — virtually all of the Warriors players who were seeking new deals had to find them elsewhere.

By allowing that to come to pass, especially with Gary Payton II and Otto Porter Jr, management has sent a message to head coach Steve Kerr. Specifically, that the time is nigh to unleash former lottery picks Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody.

And while that’s probably the best thing for the Dubs in the long term, the team now has some holes to fill in the second unit — particularly on the defensive side of the ball, where Payton and Porter boasted D-ratings of 102.3 and 103.3, respectively.

To that end, Heat forward Caleb Martin is one potential free-agent target who could make up for some of what Golden State has lost.

An Emerging, Two-Way Weapon

Martin, who is the twin brother of Charlotte Hornets forward Cody Martin, was Payton-esque in his ability to emerge from relative obscurity and secure a key rotational spot for a title-contending club.

After beginning the 2021-22 campaign as a two-way signee, the 26-year-old received playing time early, after which his role increased amid December’s league-wide COVID-19 outbreak. From that point on, he became a “two-way” player of a different kind, helping the Heat ascend the East standings with his efforts on both sides of the court.

For the year, he averaged a career-best 9.2 points, 3.8 boards and 1.0 steals in 22.9 minutes per contest while shooting 41.3% from deep. Along the way, opposing players’ field-goal percentages dropped 4% overall and 9% from three-point range when he was the closest defender.

Converting his deal to a standard NBA contract was a no-brainer move. Now, though, his future in South Beach is uncertain, potentially leaving the Warriors with an opportunity to pounce, should they feel so inclined.

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Why Is Martin Still Un-Signed

Four days into free agency, the 6-foot-5, 205-pound Martin has yet to sign with the Heat or any other club, and that may just be a result of his restricted free agency. There’s also the chance, though, that he’s simply not a major priority for Pat Riley anymore, as the Godfather weighs a Kevin Durant run and other star-grabbing moves.

There’s also this: for all he brought to the table during the regular season, Martin was only given 12.3 MPG during the playoffs. And he struggled when he was on the floor, averaging 4.0 points on shooting splits of 40-30-33.

Still, there’s no doubting that his size/length (he’s got a 6-foot-10 wingspan), motor, positional versatility and disruptive defensive style, in addition to his burgeoning outside game, would be assets to any contending team.

Where Golden State is concerned, he’s a player who could help hold things down on both ends with the reservists while not taking too many minutes away from Kuminga and Moody.


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