The Hornets saw immense potential with Caleb Martin – especially after his stellar preseason – and signed the guard to the team’s 15-man roster. The talented rookie has fully bought into the Hornets’ plan of player development – the lifeblood of the organization – where he can develop and focus on the little things in Greensboro. He’s fully equipped and will be ready to make an impact when the Hornets need him to make nightly contributions.
If you have watched the Swarm play at all this season, you quickly notice that Caleb’s talent is far beyond his surrounding competitors. Caleb Martin is lighting the G-League on fire for the Greensboro Swarm. He’s averaging 19.9 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1.5 steals (I would strongly encourage you to watch the Swarm, if you aren’t. Caleb, Kobi Simmons, Jalen McDaniels, and Robert Franks are a blast to watch).
He makes an impact in just about every way imaginable. From pinning opponents’ shot attempts on the glass, dunking all over defenses, dropping 30 points like it’s clockwork, dropping dimes to his teammates for open looks, he can do it all. All of those things have stuck out to Hornets head coach James Borrego, along with Caleb Martin’s incredibly high basketball IQ.
There have been necessary steps that needed to be taken for Caleb to get to the point where he is now and where he envisions himself in the future in the NBA.
The jump shot: an area that needed some fixing
Like most, Caleb Martin’s skills coach, Omar Khanani, knew Martin had the talent to make it in the NBA. We can see it. It’s obvious. The preseason All-American averaged more than 19 points per game as a senior at Nevada, leading them to the Sweet 16 the year prior. But Caleb Martin’s jump shot needed tweaking, despite a high shooting percentage – over 40 percent as a junior. Proper shooting mechanics are essential for long-term success in the NBA.
If you’ve kept track of Caleb from college to his most previous game for the Swarm, you can see a vast transformation in his jump shot. Caleb has put in work on his jump shot since last spring, continuing up to training camp, with the help of his skills coach.
I got to talk to the man behind the scenes who helped transform Martin’s shot, Omar Khanani.
Meet Omar Khanani
Omar Khanani is an NBA skills coach. His clients include both Caleb and Cody Martin, Pacers forward T.J. Warren, rapper J.Cole, along with various other professional players overseas. The former pro has been working with the Martin brothers for almost six years. He’s prepared them for their time at NC State, to Nevada, to both of their jumps to the NBA. Omar, more informally known as “OK,” said the three are like “brothers,” and it shows.
OK has been working with Caleb on changing the base on his jump shot since he finished his season at Nevada. Khanani stays in constant communication with Martin to remind him and coach him on the little things to keep the Hornets rookie steadily improving his jumper and overall game. In due time the shot will be effortless, but it takes loads of work to get there.
Here’s how OK did it.
Caleb’s always been a shooter: even with an unorthodox Jumper
If you have kept up with Caleb Martin throughout his collegiate career, you would know that he has always shot the ball at a high level. When he was at NC State, that was his role. When he got to Nevada, he was their leading scorer. The Hornets signed him fully knowing how skilled he was scoring the basketball.
“Through time he kinda picked up that habit of kinda leaning back,” OK told The Painted Lines. “The year he sat out before Nevada, he really started to lean back. I wasn’t able to work with him. But give him credit, his junior year he shot 40 percent [from three].”
Look below at the video. You can visibly see Martin leaning back and slinging out the right leg on his jumpers – despite them going in.
Caleb Martin has drastically improved the base on his jump shot.— Jack Duffy (@JackDuffyTPL) January 14, 2020
You can see below at Nevada he would swing that right leg.
Look at the following threaded Tweet for the improvement: pic.twitter.com/WSb19x8jAt
“Yeah, in college I tended to stick my right leg out,” Martin said. “I noticed when I started doing NBA workouts that my shot was short. With the lean and the kick, it was just short, short.”
How OK changed Caleb’s jumper
Changing your jump shot is not the easiest thing in the world. When you shoot a basketball tens or hundreds of thousands of times the same way, you form habits. Habits are hard to change, especially with something like shooting that primarily uses muscle memory. But if you want to make it at the next level, you have to make the necessary changes. That’s what Caleb and OK did.
“His senior year (at Nevada) Caleb didn’t shoot it great,” OK told The Painted Lines. Martin shot 33 percent his senior year, down from 40 as a junior. “So I knew when we got to the NBA, we were gonna have to make the necessary changes.
“I said, ‘Look, you got a chance to play in the league, but you gotta change your shot. Even though it goes in, you got to change the way it looks. You know how the NBA is, they won’t like it.’ And that’s what they were doing. We had to make the fix.”
And so, after Caleb finished his time at Nevada, they got to work. They grinded all summer, working on that jump shot.
OK knew exactly how to fix the problem.
“We had this cool little routine we would do. I would tie a resistance band to his (Caleb’s) legs and make him shoot 100 shots starting at the rim, moving back just to get his shot comfortable, holding his follow-through,” OK explained. “Those are the two most important things. Him landing on two feet with the band tied around his legs so he couldn’t kick out. Just making sure when he shoots, he’s parallel. Shooting up and down every time. It was a fun process… It was nice having Cody [Martin] there too.”
By using a nifty workout tool, lots of reps, coaching, and mutual frustration – due to the grueling process – back and forth, they began fixing it.
Transforming your shot is a necessary but frustrating process
“All three of us are like brothers. We might butt heads, but he [Caleb] trusts me and I trust him. Same with Cody,” OK told TPL. “He (Caleb) listens when I tell him something. At first, it’s hard to grasp. But once they see more and more results in the games, they trust it more.”
Caleb agreed on the exact same sentiments his close friend and trainer stated.
“It’s a frustrating process, honestly,” Martin told The Painted Lines. “You’re just so used to shooting one way, and it’s comfortable like that. When I got to this process, everyone was like you got to take that out. It was tough, but it’s worked out.”
As you see in the video below from one of the Swarm’s recent games last Friday, Caleb’s shot has taken a 180. In this game, Caleb scored 30 points on 6-9 from three, 12-19 from the field. The before and afters are absolutely stunning.
Caleb is much more stable now, landing on two feet, holding his follow-through. pic.twitter.com/jokoZEL1qh— Jack Duffy (@JackDuffyTPL) January 14, 2020
“I’ve been putting a lot of work in (since the summer),” Caleb told The Painted Lines. “Constantly working on keeping that leg in, sticking on two feet, and holding that follow through.” Exactly what his skills coach drilled into him day-after-day. “I just want to stay parallel and stay up and down, and it’s helped a lot. I’ve been improving my shooting range working on all of this stuff, so it’s been nice to see (the results).”
Caleb improving his shot selection
Martin’s shot has changed, but that doesn’t mean he has the green light to shoot whenever he wants. Caleb has a drastically high IQ for his age – many media members I’ve talked with have said they wouldn’t be surprised if he or his brother are coaches once their careers end – but at times his shot selection has been questionable.
The modern NBA is built on three-pointers, layups, and free-throws, catch-and-shoot three-pointers being one of the more efficient shots in basketball. With a revamped base, Caleb can now take advantage of this trend in the league at a higher level.
“The last 10 games or so, we’ve seen a drastic improvement on his threes,” OK told The Painted Lines. “ In the NBA, for you to get better, you gotta be able to shoot catch-and-shoot threes. We know Caleb can shoot off the dribble. In college, he could shoot any kind of threes he wanted. Contested, off the dribble, catch-and-shoot, whatever.”
But as OK said, the NBA is different. It is much more difficult to shoot off the dribble than it was in college. Shooting off the catch is far more efficient and the role Caleb will likely play for the Hornets, he will need to shoot off the catch.
“In the past 5-10 games, I’ve been telling Caleb, ‘Hey, just shoot catch-and-shoot threes. No one is going to be able to stop you from going to the basket,’” OK said. “I mean Borrego told me that Caleb’s one of the best guys getting to the basket on their 15-man roster. So I told him, ‘You know what your strengths are. Shoot open threes. Attack off the dribble.’ Now we’ve seen an improvement in his shot selection.”
The jump in three-point percentage
Over Caleb Martin’s last eight games, he is shooting 35.8 percent from three-point land. His accuracy from three has continued to increase as the year has progressed. One thing he has to continue to work on is the shot selection to make sure he is getting the best shot he can every shooting possession.
OK knows him better than almost everybody. He has constantly drilled proper shot selection into Caleb. His shooting numbers have already improved, but it’s not an overnight process. Seeing results takes time. You just have to continue to play within yourself – and the team – and it will come. When I say that, I mean play to your strengths.
“At the end of last year at Nevada, Cody [Martin] and I sat him (Caleb) down and were like, ‘Hey, you got to shoot better shots.’ Every time he focuses on that, we see him score efficiently. When he’s driving to the rim, shooting catch-and-shoot threes, or one or two dribble pull-ups, he’s unstoppable.”
As I have said, Caleb Martin outshines everyone on the court. He has continued to make strides and tweaks to further elevate his game. He’s coachable, humble, and confident.
Though the jump shot is fixed, Caleb still has to be continuously aware and practice healthy habits to prevent him from going back to old habits
OK watches every game of Caleb’s he can. It’s a rewarding process to see your client’s work pay off and the role you played in the process. In the same breath, it’s essential for OK to keep a close watch out for Caleb to prevent him from falling back into old habits. He’s seen and coached Martin through it all, so he tunes in to help his close friend out.
“I’ll tell him (Caleb) when I watch his games after he misses a few shots, he starts to kick his leg a little again,” OK explained. “I tell him to trust it, stick to it, and hold his follow-through and land on two feet. He’s been doing it. It’s been great to see the improvement (since the summer).”
Over time, if you practice the necessary habits and keep putting in the reps, it will become muscle memory. You will subconsciously shoot the way you’ve been aiming towards. It’s a long process, you just have to trust it. That’s what Caleb’s doing.
“It’s constantly getting better. I still am working on getting those habits down,” Martin said last Friday. “There are times when I get tired and I catch myself falling back into my old ways a little bit, but it’s not as bad. It’s cool though that now I can feel myself leaning back a little bit or feeling my right leg kick out a bit. It’s just about making a conscious effort to stick to it.”
Caleb Martin is taking the right path to ensure he will be fully equipped to take on NBA talent once his name is called. His jump shot has changed, and his mindset and work ethic are in a prime condition to continue on this upward trajectory. He has sowed the seeds, and the fruits of his labor have begun to blossom. Caleb Martin is a keeper for the Hornets.