The LA Clippers have acquired Houston Rockets forward KJ Martin in exchange for two future second-round draft picks, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Martin was the 52nd pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, but has blossomed in his three years in Houston, growing into a part-time starter for the admittedly dreadful Rockets last season. He played in all 82 of Houston’s games, starting 49 and averaging 28 minutes, 12.7 points and 5.5 rebounds. His three-point shooting took a slight dip in year 3, but overall he has shot 34% from deep on 4.6 attempts per 100 possessions in his career–a clear step down from the Clippers’ veteran power forward options. But still just 22 years old with over 200 games and 5,000 minutes of NBA experience (and 350 NBA dunks!), Martin brings a combination of youthful upside and NBA experience that the Clippers were unlikely to find anywhere else on the trade market. While undersized at the power forward spot at 6’6″, he’s a phenomenal athlete that will quickly become a fan favorite due to his exceptional dunking prowess and high defensive motor.

The Clippers traded two future 2nds for Martin and absorbed his $1.9M salary into the trade exception created by the Reggie Jackson trade in February. While 2 2nds is an entirely appropriate cost for Martin, the Clippers do have to be mindful of their future 2nd round pick situation, as they also traded 2 2nds for Bones Hyland at the deadline. Both are good value deals, but LAC is quickly running out of future 2nds, as they’ve also already traded their own selections in 2024, 2025, 2027, and 2028. Martin is entering the fourth season of his cheap deal signed as a second-round rookie–but that means that he will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, depriving the Clippers of the right of first refusal teams get for first round rookies and players finishing contracts in their first 3 seasons in the NBA. They will have full bird rights to re-sign him.

It’s easy to see where Martin fits into the Clippers’ weaknesses, as he’s a virtually perfect fit to address some of the biggest complaints about their roster: age, speed, athleticism, motor. Figuring out where he fits in the rotation will be another question. His shooting won’t make for ideal floor-spacing, especially if he starts in the same lineup as recently re-signed Russell Westbrook (though honestly, his ability to cut threateningly is going to go a long way in offsetting defenders sagging from the corner). He’s also not ideally-sized at power forward, though that’s clearly the position where the Clippers need the most help. If Terance Mann starts in an undersized unit, Martin could play either forward position off the bench–he could also find himself in that role if Mann is part of a package moved for a star.

On a final note, “KJ” of course stands for Kenyon Junior, as in Kenyon Martin Junior, son of former Clipper Kenyon Martin, who was a part of the Clippers’ 2012 playoff run in the first year of Lob City. KJ was born in Gardena and played at Sierra Canyon High School. Welcome home, KJ.

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Lucas Hann

Lucas Hann

Lucas has covered the Clippers since 2011, and has been credentialed by the team since 2014. He co-founded 213Hoops with Robert Flom in January 2020.  He is a graduate of Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, CA and St. John's University in Queens, NY.  He earned his MA in Communication and Rhetorical Studies from Syracuse University.

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