What do Knicks have in two-way rookie Jaylen Martin?

Jaylen Martin Knicks
Knicks rookie Jaylen Martin playing at Florida High, where he was coached by Charlie Ward (wikimedia commons)

After not making a pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, the New York Knicks signed Jaylen Martin and Jacob Toppin to two-way deals for the 2023-24 NBA Season

Martin is a 6’6″ wing who decided to sign with Overtime Elite, a new high school league that pays players for a chance to play competitive basketball and gain exposure as an alternative to having them go to the NCAA. Martin went undrafted on Thursday night, but his two-way contract with the Knicks means that he will split time between them and their G-League affiliate, the Westchester Knicks.

Martin was also coached by former Knicks guard Charlie Ward for three years at Florida High before Martin joined Overtime Elite. In his one season as a part of the Overtime Elite league, Martin averaged 14.0 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.6 steals while shooting 49.1% from the field.

Ward, who also played quarterback at Florida State, was drafted by the Knicks in the first round in 1994 and played in New York for 10 seasons.

Ward spoke to reporters about Martin, saying, “It’s been a journey for him. He’s gotten a lot better. He’s a slasher. He has good size and he can defend and score the ball. … He still has to improve in a lot of areas like all young players have to in his position.”

While watching highlights on a player is not always the best way to make evaluations on a player, it’s the best we have to go on for Martin. 

Jaylen Martin Knicks
Knicks rookie Jaylen Martin competed at Overtime Elite in 2022-23 rather than attend college (wikimedia commons)

The first thing that stands out is his size. At 6’5″ but with a 6’11” wingspan, he looks physicality larger than the guards he was playing against at the NBA Draft Combine. He also uses that size really well when he attacks the basket, often finishing into contact. 

However, he also has an array of finishing moves and seems to understand angles, which makes him appear to be a pretty solid finisher around the basket, which is good because the highlights make it seem like he prefers to go to the basket way more than he likes to shoot. 

When we do get to see shots, the jump shot doesn’t appear overly fluid and is certainly a work in progress. His release point isn’t consistent and he didn’t seem comfortable shooting off of the dribble. 

However, he does appear to have really good feel for spacing on cuts and angles for rebounds. His highlights are full of put-back dunks and that’s not just because of his competition, it’s because he understands timing and approach really well, much like Knicks wing Josh Hart, which enables him to snake his way in for offensive rebounds. 

Additionally, Martin competes really well on defense, using his size to get into the offensive players’ chest. He also has really active hands on defense, which leads to a fair amount of steals but also leads to him biting on fakes since he is clearly looking to pick somebody’s pocket. 

Overall, it’s usually best not to expect too much from a rookie on a two-way contract as their primary purpose is to develop, but Martin appears to have the size, basketball IQ, and slasher game to grow into an impactful role player in limited minutes off of somebody’s bench. If he were to ever develop a consistent jump shot, he could certainly emerge as a strong rotation player in the NBA. 

That shooting development will be key for his future with the Knicks since New York is already flush with players who are more comfortable going to the basket than pulling up from deep. 

For more Knicks coverage, visit amNY Sports