It’s been a journey-filled last 8-9 months for Caleb Martin.
Last August, Martin, who went undrafted in the 2019 draft, was cut after two seasons with the Charlotte Hornets to clear room for Kelly Oubre Jr., who signed with the Hornets to a two-year contract.
Martin signed with Miami in the following weeks to its final two-way contract — the other possessed by Marcus Garrett. With a revolving door of bodies due to COVID-19 issues that plagued the team (and league) and numerous injuries, the 26-year-old capitalized on his increased opportunity. He shattered expectations and played his way to being one of the NBA’s best players to ever play on a two-way contract.
His on-court acumen, high-flying athleticism, point-of-attack defensive instincts plus his budding shot quickly made him a fan- and organization-favorite, eventually converting to a standard contract in Feb. And the 26-year-old, an impending free agent, was adamant about where wants to be next season: Miami.
“I want to be here [in Miami],” he said during his exit interview Tuesday. “I got better here ... I feel like my team and staff believe in me and feel I’ll get better here.”
This is the first offseason where Martin enters the offseason in free agency, which officially begins on July 1, 2022, when the new league year begins. He said he’s approaching it with an open mind, but Miami’s the place where he ultimately wants to end up.
From the start until now, Martin improved — considerably — throughout the 2021-22 campaign, his third year in the league.
He posted averages of 9.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.0 steals — all career marks — on 50.7/41.3/76.3 shooting spits across 60 games (12 starts). That featured a 28-point, 8-rebound outing with six 3s against the Milwaukee Bucks on Dec. 8 — one of the more memorable highlights to the season.
Martin’s role shrunk in the postseason, similarly to most role players as teams rightfully utilize their best players for longer stretches. In 17 playoff appearances, he averaged 4.5 points, 2.2 rebounds on 40.0 percent shooting, including 30.3 percent from 3-point range in 12.3 minutes per game.
Even though the Heat do not own his early-bird or bird-rights, Martin should be a rather inexpensive contract that the Heat brain trust should attempt to retain. It takes two to tango, but one side knows where he wants to end up to maximize his abilities; being apart of #HEATCulture™ is one thing, but wanting to be apart of it is another.
Martin represents the latter, willing to do whatever it takes.
“I feel like I can be one of those guys that fluctuates whatever a team needs from me,” he said. “If you need a guy to come off the bench, bring energy and do that stuff — I can do that; I feel like I can step in and start. It doesn’t matter what the role is and what a team needs from me, I feel like I can fill that void. My game expanded shooting-wise, being more efficient and consistent ... I feel like I took big steps and I feel like I’m only going to take larger steps going forward.
“[Heat Culture] is tough. It’s hard for some people to get it if they haven’t seen it first-hand. ... I feel like once I get here, I knew, pretty quickly, that these are my type of guys — mentally, the work ethic and to every aspect of everything in this organization. [Miami] is the place for me. That’s what it’s felt like since I got here.”