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Trending Hornets: Cody Martin was “good enough” but he didn’t progress in Year 2

Martin’s 2020 advanced stats look very, very similar to those of his 2019 rookie season.

Boston Celtics v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

The Trending Hornets series evaluates the career trajectories of Charlotte’s players based on two advanced stats - Player Efficiency Rating (PER) and Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) - as provided by Basketball Reference.

PER measures per-minute production standardized such as the league average is 15. A PER above 15 means a player contributed above league average. As a frame of reference, among this year’s PER leaders the Top 60 rated somewhere between 17.7 and 31.3.

VORP is a box score estimate of the points per 100 team possessions that a player contributed above a replacement level player. A VORP of 1.2 means the team was 1.2 points better off per 100 possessions with this player on the floor versus a league average player. Among this year’s VORP leaders the Top 60 rated somewhere between 1.6 and 8.6.

This week we will look at the brief trajectory of Cody Martin.

Career trend overview

Cody was drafted in 2019 in the second round, No. 36 overall. Yes, his advanced stats aren’t great, but we need to be realistic with expectations for a player who was passed over 35 times in the draft before the Hornets pulled the trigger.

Among the 60 players drafted in 2019, Cody ranks 16th in career games, 29th in total points, 19th in rebounds, 12th in assists, and 20th in win share (the estimated number of wins contributed by a player). Through two seasons his output when looked at through the lens of raw statistics has clearly exceeded his draft position. The 6-foot-5 wing has been about the 20th best player in his draft class (his VORP is 20th overall, too) which is pretty darn good for the No. 36 pick. I know it’s easy for us as fans to get a bit impatient with him, especially with his offensive limitations, but let’s realize he has done quite well given where he was drafted.

What’s discouraging is Cody’s advanced stats didn’t improve from his rookie season to Year 2. His PER of 10.5 in his rookie season, which is well below the NBA average of 15.0, flatlined at 10.6 last year. His rookie VORP of 0.0, right at replacement level, dipped a bit to -0.1 in his second season. He’s basically the posterchild of a “replacement player” in the VORP universe. From an advanced stats perspective, Cody Martin was the exact same player in his second NBA season as he was during his rookie year.

The hope for young players, especially second round picks like Martin, is they will be in over their heads in their first season then take a noticeable step forward in Year 2 when they are more accustomed to the size, speed, and nuances of the NBA. That simply didn’t happen with Cody.

What this means for the Hornets

It will be interesting to see what Martin’s role will be in 2021-22. He averaged 16.3 minutes per game last year largely playing a traditional small forward position. Available minutes at small forward will be hard to find with a healthy Gordon Hayward (*knocks on wood*), the additions of Kelly Oubre Jr. and Wes Iwundu, and with Miles Bridges sliding to the wing in bigger lineups.

Despite Martin not being an impact player, he was a member of the Hornets second best five-man unit last year. The combination of Martin, Devonte’ Graham, Terry Rozier, Miles Bridges and PJ Washington outscored opponents by a ridiculous 21.9 points per 100 possessions over the 82 minutes they played together. (The only five-man unit that fared better was swapping out Martin for Gordon Hayward). Additionally, the Hornets were +4.3 points better off per 100 possessions when Cody was on the floor last year compared to when he was off the court. While Martin’s individual stats aren’t great, he can generally fill his role at a level that could be considered, “Not great, but just good enough.”

While Cody Martin didn’t take a step forward in Year 2, the hope for the Hornets is he turns out to be a late bloomer and finds his next gear this year. Nothing will be handed to him, though. If Cody Martin is to continue playing a key contributor role with the Charlotte Hornets, he’s going to have to earn it this year.