Analyzing Cody Martin’s Impact for the Charlotte Hornets

Mar 5, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Charlotte Hornets forward Cody Martin (11) drives to the basket against San Antonio Spurs forward Zach Collins (23) during the second half at the Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 5, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Charlotte Hornets forward Cody Martin (11) drives to the basket against San Antonio Spurs forward Zach Collins (23) during the second half at the Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports /

Being a fan of any NBA team is a roller coaster of emotions. Charlotte Hornets fans can attest to this; a few months prior, they were banking on the idea of a core of Miles Bridges and LaMelo Ball. Many teams’ hopes hang on these top draft picks developing into superstars. More often than not, they have to lead their respective teams out of the gutter at young ages. With the pressure of the fanbase and with front office careers at stake, it can be a daunting task.

It was imperative for Charlotte to upgrade in the front court, as the Hornets’ play-in run exposed a gaping hole that the current tandem of players couldn’t fill defensively. Charlotte finished with their best record since the 2015-16 season. They won an additional ten games from last year, finishing 43-39. Though the process changed, the final product rendered the same results, being one and done in the play-in, falling apart defensively in blowout fashion in a must-win game. The defensive numbers for the 2021-22 season are amongst the league’s worst, ranking 25th in points allowed, 27th in rebounds allowed, and 27th in defensive rebounds. The only positive areas defensively were steals (5th) and blocks (11th), concluding the season with one of the worst defensive ratings at 113.7.

This led them to re-sign Cody Martin; while his stats won’t jump out, his most significant impact is on defense, where the Hornets can’t afford to get weaker. While Martin isn’t one of the more discussed players, his defensive plays have made him a valuable asset that Charlotte needed to retain. The most prominent trait of his game is his off-ball defense, and he consistently does a phenomenal job of rotating on the weak side. This is an area the Hornets have struggled as a team, as they allowed the second-most three-pointers in the NBA last season. Martin’s defense, hustle plays, and energy are all needed for Charlotte to find success. His pesky defense paired with his increased utility on offense has helped Martin to carve a role for himself in Charlotte.

This past season, Martin averaged 7.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per night in 71 games. Martin often does the “blue collar work” most players in the NBA avoid, which played a vital factor in GM Mitch Kupchak inking him to a long-term deal. Martin constantly has his hands in passing lanes and draws charges. He accounted for 3.2 deflections per 36 minutes and 165 deflections overall, placing him in the 88th percentile amongst NBA players. Additionally, he tallied 19 charges drawn on the season. Outside of Martin’s engagement level as a disrupter, the hallmark of his defense is rim protection, which he does despite being a wing player. In terms of lateral quickness, Martin is ordinary at best, which can lead to him getting beat off the dribble by guards when being too aggressive.

Similar to his defense, Martin presents clear strengths and weaknesses on offense. He’s not much of a shooting threat as a whole. Opposing defenses tend to sag off from him, which forces Martin, a 32.3% career three-point shooter, to let it fly from downtown. However, Martin has shown improvement from behind the arc, making 38% of his corner three-point attempts last season. When comparing the 2021-22 season to the 2020-21 season, he attempted 101 more three-pointers and converted on 38.4% of them as opposed to 27.6% in 2021-21.

Another aspect of his offensive game is his playmaking ability. Martin’s vision is impressive. In his career thus far, Martin has developed the drive-and-kick element of his game, as shown in his 3.5 assists to 1.2 turnover ratio per 36 minutes. His ability to work as a secondary pick-roll threat, in part due to playing at point guard in college, has given him the ability to establish great chemistry with his teammates. His basketball IQ has improved, as he excels at finding cutters on backdoor passes. This allowed his assist ratio to be among the team’s best at 25.9% last season; to put that into perspective, LaMelo Ball, who led the Hornets in assists with 7.6 per game, had an assist ratio of 26.4%.

Concerning Martin’s offensive game, what tends to go unnoticed is the fact that he is an elite catch-and-shoot threat. On the season, Martin shot 71.1% on assisted buckets. However, he struggles in isolation when he is forced to create his own offense. This is shown in his 28.9% shooting on unassisted field goal attempts. Martin’s style is far from glamorous, and he constantly struggles to finish looks when the lane isn’t cleared out and when he finds himself having to operate in traffic.

Martin’s combination of cerebral passing and defensive tenaciousness make him an intriguing weapon even without a consistent jumper. To add to his prowess as a defender, Martin swiped 88 steals a season ago. This past season, he averaged 2.3 steals per 100 possessions, good for 27th in the league. There were only four players that finished ahead of Martin in steals that also logged fewer minutes than him throughout the season (Delon Wright, Chuma Okeke, DeAnthony Melton, Matisse Thybulle). Martin is arguably Charlotte’s best defender and is often given the assignment of guarding the opposing team’s best player. Although many don’t label Martin as an elite defender, he is constantly caught fighting over screens and is often able to hold his own against some of the best scorers in the league.

What’s next for Cody Martin and the Charlotte Hornets?

With the Hornets carousel of a coaching search concluding with the rehiring of Steve Clifford, the hope is that Charlotte will find its way back to a top-tier defense. Clifford is known as a defensive-minded coach; in his five previous season with the Hornets, the team averaged out as the 12th-best defense in the NBA. Given Clifford’s history of maximizing talent and putting players in position to succeed, the hope is Clifford can push Cody Martin and company into being one of the league’s better defensive units.