“They put me in the starting lineup because they believe in me,” Martin said. “When my opportunity comes, I want to take advantage.”
And take advantage he did. Caleb Martin just scored a career-high 28 points against the defending NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks — the Bucks’ first loss this season with Jrue Holiday, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Khris Middleton in the lineup (previously 11-0).
The Miami Heat’s two-way player has already played 25 games this season, and under his two-way contract will max out at 50 games. At that point, he will either stay with the G-League affiliate Sioux Falls Skyforce, or the Heat will have to extend to him a standard NBA contract. Luckily, they left a roster spot open. The understanding is that the Heat can extend a contract to Martin and also stay under the luxury tax when the time arises.
For now, Caleb Martin is proving his value.
He may be the best two-way contract player ever. I don’t know how to quantify that, but if you have a thought, leave it in the comments below.
With all the injuries the Heat are currently dealing with (Butler, Adebayo, Morris, Oladipo), Martin has been used a lot, and on Wednesday night he had a break-out performance. The Heat have had these moments from other guys as well — Gabe Vincent broke out for a 20-point fourth-quarter explosion in Chicago. Max Strus, in the same game that Martin exploded, had a 14 point fourth-quarter behind hot shooting. Hell, even KZ Okpala had a great game against the Bucks.
But Martin has provided an edge the Heat need with the absence of key players. “We don’t like to be in the losing column,” Martin said after the game against Milwaukee. “We were locked in. You could tell we were hungry for a victory.”
And he’s been hungry all season to prove what he is capable of when not on the same roster as his brother.
In five of the last six games, Martin has played 28 or more minutes. He’s scored in double figures in those five games while also shooting 50% or better. He’s bringing something to the Heat team that they need. He’s willing to contribute in any way he can.
In fact, several Heat players have quoted Udonis Haslem as saying, “Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.” That’s the motto that these surrounding and supporting pieces go by when they come off the bench. And it’s the motto that allowed Martin to jump into the starting group and have the game he just did.
What Martin is able to provide when the roster is healthy and deeper into the season is still up in the air. Traditionally, Spoelstra will limit his rotation to 8 players, maybe nine. And if you take the starting group and add in the reserves of Herro, Dedmon, Morris, and Oladipo — there may not be much room for Martin to play when things really matter. In fact, that also leaves out Max Strus who is a consistent player.
But for now, Martin is valuable because it is a long season, and he is providing what the Heat needs.