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Report: With crowded frontcourt, Rockets open to trading KJ Martin

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Shortly after his second NBA season concluded, Rockets forward KJ Martin reportedly saw the writing on the wall and inquired about a trade once Houston secured the No. 3 overall draft pick in the 2022 NBA draft lottery. That top-three placement put the Rockets in position to draft a potential franchise cornerstone in the frontcourt.

Today, with Houston having ultimately drafted two frontcourt players (Auburn’s Jabari Smith and LSU’s Tari Eason) in the 2022 first round, Martin’s concerns over playing time clearly weren’t unfounded.

According to Kelly Iko of The Athletic, that may soon lead to Martin’s request being granted by general manager Rafael Stone. Iko writes:

Teams, including the Portland Trail Blazers and Brooklyn Nets, also inquired about Kenyon Martin Jr. around the draft period.

Houston likes Martin and believes he can still have a positive impact on the roster, but the Rockets understand the nature of the available minutes — or potential lack thereof now with an additional three players drafted — as well as the return of Usman Garuba. Should an adequate offer open up, Houston is open to finding a better fit for Martin elsewhere.

Now 21 years old, the athletic second-round pick from the 2020 NBA draft has played relatively well with the Rockets, averaging 9.0 points (52.4% FG, 36.0% on 3-pointers) and 4.3 rebounds in 22.0 minutes.

However, frontcourt minutes are at a premium after Houston’s latest draft, and Martin understandably wants to play as much as possible so that he can better position himself for his second NBA contract. The Rockets, on the other hand, are placing a clear priority on defense, and forwards like Smith, Eason, and Jae’Sean Tate project better on that end.

Martin is signed for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 seasons at a relatively bargain rate of below $2 million annually, so it shouldn’t be hard for him to find suitors. If a team such as the Trail Blazers or Nets makes a fair offer, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if Martin moves on this offseason.

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