Blazer Preview Part Eight: Martell Webster

I am away from the blog until Sunday attending to family matters.  My main man Atma Brother One of Golden State of Mind fame is helping out by continuing to post the daily Blazer preview stuff for me.  He also said he would post himself if any significant Blazer events went down.  (Maybe you can get a few words out of him about last night's pre-season game featuring our two teams.)  I didn't pay him extra to monitor the comments, so please keep them to their usual excellent standards.

Martell Webster

Height: 6'7"
Weight: 210 lbs
Age: 19
Years Exp.: 1
Games Played: 61
Started: 18

Minutes: 17.4
Points:  6.6
FG%:  .399
3PT%: .357
FT%:  .859
OffReb: 0.5
DefReb: 1.7
TotReb: 2.1
Stl: 0.34
Blk: 0.23
Ast: 0.6
TO: 0.7
Ast/TO:  0.79
Fouls:  1.5

Assets

--When you think Martell Webster you think shooting.  His motion and release are pure as the driven snow and twice as pretty.  It's the same shot every...single...time.  And you swear every one of them is going in.  We haven't seen a guy like this since Tracy Murray.

--Right after his shot, you've got to list his body.  This guy looked like an NBA player at 18.  He's tall, square-shouldered, and solid.  It could be scary what the end of his growth spurt combined with a couple years of strength training does to him.  This differentiates him from 90% of the sweet shooters out there.

--Less tangibly, but just as importantly, Martell has a work ethic and he appears quite coachable.  He wants to get better.  Everything the coaching staff asks him to do, he does (or at least tries).  You can see it in the way he started scrambling for rebounds midway through the season.  You can hear it in the public admiration of onlookers as he heads to the gym right after the Blazers touch down from a long road trip.  He pushes himself to correct flaws in his game.  That gives you hope.

--The kid oozes charisma out of every pore.

--Hallelujah!  Somebody who can make a free throw!

Challenges

--As mentioned many times before, rookie stats skew low.  Still, a sub-40% shooting clip from a guy who's primarily a shooter ain't good.  That better rise 30-40 points this season.

--Despite the body, Martell lacks either knowledge, instinct, or ability to move his feet laterally.  (Jury's still out on which.)  It shows up on both ends of the court as people get by him and he is largely unable to return the favor.  He'll have to work on becoming a better position defender and on developing a more well-rounded offensive game.

--Thus far he doesn't handle or pass that well for a wing player.

--Despite his work ethic, there are some games where he just can't get on track.  When it's going bad for him it tends to go really bad.  Hopefully developing maturity will cure this.

--He doesn't have a clear position.  He may be too slow for a shooting guard and not athletic enough for a small forward.  If he can't overcome one or the other he'll likely become a 6th-7th man instead of the all-star he aspires to be.

Notes

If I were playing against Martell I would give him the Steve Kerr treatment, staying right in his face anytime he came within 25 feet of the hoop.  If you turn him into a driver you take away some of his halfcourt effectiveness.  You have to defend him doggedly because he's actually better coming off curls and motion at this point than he is standing still and shooting.  If he becomes the passive weak-side outlet standing and waiting for the ball, I win.  Given his relative defensive inexperience I'd try to run him through a lot of screens or try to get him matched up with somebody who has good handle.  I want him running, bumping, and thinking a lot on the defensive end, the better to tire out that shot.  The minute his jumper starts bouncing off the front rim I've got him.  If he's playing shooting guard I also bank on him not always getting back on defense.  He's graceful more than speedy and I try to outrun him down the court.

There's no doubt that Martell will fit in somewhere.  The question is where.  His skill is so rare that we've got to find a way to use him.  The problem is he's likely to be the kind of player that you need to compensate for, and we've already got a few of those.  (Zach, Joel, Mags, in some ways Darius, maybe Travis.)  As soon as you play more than one at a time you start running into problems.  This might further cement Martell as a second-unit, instant offense guy.  Either way, you can't leave that shooting on the bench forever.  Jack and Roy developing into well-rounded guys would sure help.  On the other hand, we know relatively little about his game after only half a season of sustained playing time.  Maybe he does turn into the next coming of Joe Dumars.  Would be nice...

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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