Kenyon is averaging 10.2 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game, with a somewhat surprisingly low PER of 12.8. He also provides a big body in the rotation with an ability to finish around the basket and incredibly strong hands. When he gets a defender in the post with the ball anywhere where he can stick a paw on it, it's not going anywhere. There are very few players in the league who can successfully rip the ball away from Kenyon.
More importantly, Kenyon is the defensive leader of this Nuggets squad. It seems so long ago when the Denver media and coaching staff were referring to Kenyon as a locker room cancer, or when Karl benched him for insubordination in the Clippers playoff series loss. No other player plays with the same defensive intensity that Kenyon does night in and night out, and when he's out, there are clearly problems on the defensive end for the Nuggets.
More after the jump.
Let's take a look at the Nuggets last three opponents and the final scores of the games.
Miami Heat: Avg. PPG: 97.6 Final Score: 96-88 Heat
Charlotte Bobcats: Avg. PPG: 90.3 Final Score: 107-95, Bobcats
Detroit Pistons: Avg. PPG: 93.3 Final Score: 101-99 Pistons
The average PPG of these teams is a paltry 93.3. But when Kenyon is out, it jumps to an average of 101.3. That's EIGHT extra PPG, average, that the Nuggets give up to opponents when Kenyon is not playing or injured.
Witness the last two games for more indication of why Kenyon is so important. Carmelo scores 40, the Nuggets lose to the Pistons. Carmelo scores 34, the Nuggets lose to the Bobcats. Carmelo scores 14...the Nuggets win by 10 over Philly.
Scoring and expecting to ride Carmelo each night is not enough. Denver's defensive commitment is just not on the same level as when Kenyon is in the game. Not only that, but Denver is one of the worst rebounding teams in the league, grabbing just 41 per game and scooping up only .485% of total boards. If you're not going to rebound the ball, you BETTER be able to make shooters miss or alter their shots. In the above three losses, the Nuggets were out-rebounded each time by an average of seven:
- Miami Heat: 41-34, Miami
- Charlotte Bobcats: 43-35, Charlotte
- Detroit Pistons: 43-37, Pistons
Remember how many rebounds Kenyon averages per game? Seven.
That's seven additional opportunities for the Nuggets: a defensive board here, a chance at more points on the offensive end there - rebounding is critical to a teams offensive and defensive efficiency. You keep the other team from running the clock down an additional 24 seconds, chances at easy offensive points off the missed shot, and also provide opportunities to run the fast break.
The top of the table says that with Martin on the court, they are 1.4 points/100 possessions better on offense than when he is not on the court. They are also 4.6 pts/100 possession better on defense with him on the court.
Another way to say this is that with Martin, they outscore opponents by 9.6 pts/100 possessions; without Martin they outscore opponents by 3.6 pts/100 possessions.
The nitty gritty stats show that the defensive improvement with Martin is due to shooting from the field (opponents shoot -2% when facing Martin), fouls (Nugs commit 21 per 48 minutes with Martin, but 24 without Martin), and turnovers (Nugs force 1 more TO/48 minutes with Martin). Defensive rebounding is about the same with or without Martin.
To me, it's easy to see the importance of Kenyon Martin. Gone are the times when I thought that Kenyon Martin would never really be able to live up to his contract to this team. It's clear to me that Kenyon's ability to plug the holes of the Nuggets' defensive weaknesses is vital to this team's success.
Without Kenyon, we are lost.