2009-10 Season Review: Martell Webster

Martell Webster shares with Andre Miller the distinction of being the only Blazer to have played in all 82 games of the 2009-10 season.  For that alone he deserves mighty praise.  He paid his injury penance with 5 total minutes played in 2008-09.  Maybe fate decided that was enough.  Not looking a gift horse in the mouth, we will laud Martell for suiting up every night.

The good news is that Webster picked up this year like he hadn't missed a beat, in most respects duplicating his production of two seasons prior.  The less good news comes in a pair of observations:

1.  At 23, even with the season off, staying level isn't the best thing.

2.  Those numbers were decidedly so-so.

Martell had a good January, averaging 15.5 points and 5 rebounds in 35 minutes per game.  5 of his 9 20+ point games came in that month.   Had he been able to maintain that level of production throughout the season we'd be talking about a new Martell.  It's somewhat typical of the old Martell to run in streaks, however...quarter to quarter, game to game, month to month.  Webster averaged 30 minutes per game filling in for the injured Nicolas Batum in December and shot under 35% for the month, averaging only 9.1 per game.  Batum returned to regular action in February and Webster began to spiral downward.  By the time March rolled around his court time had dwindled to about 40% of peak.  He came back strong in the last couple games of the season.  He did well in the three playoff games where he played 33 minutes or more but was a non-factor in the three where he averaged 20 minutes or less.  If you're starting to notice a pattern here, give yourself a cookie.  But technically it should be a three-year old cookie because this has been Martell's story for as long as I can remember.  If you play Martell in a prominent role, usually with the starters and with big minutes, he can produce.  Anything less and you're limited to the occasional outburst.

So what do you get for those minutes?  Martell shot 40.5% from the field and 37.3% from the three-point arc this season, both almost exactly congruent with his career averages, both down a couple percentage points from 2007-08 when Martell last played regularly.  Webster's True Shooting percentage of 54.3% and Effective Field Goal percentage of 50.2% were also about average for him and decent-but-unspectacular overall.   76% of Martell's attempts come on jump shots, which helps explain those percentages.  Webster helps both his and the team's cause when he rebounds, which he does to fair success.  Webster's huge improvement has come defensively.  From a fairly bad start to his career he's turned into a solid, sometimes inspired, defender.  He'll not force turnovers nor block shots but he's developed enough lateral movement and instinct to stay in front of his man and not cause the same headaches for the interior defenders that Portland's backcourt does.

Websters +1.3 plus-minus per game figure is also so-so, ranking him 11th on the team among players that saw any reasonable amount of action.  He was slightly out-performed by small-foward opponents on average.  The team scored fewer points per 100 possessions when Webster was in versus when he was sitting.  The team allowed .5 points fewer per 100 possessions with him on the court.  However the Blazers' Effective Field Goal percentage went down when he was in and the opponent's went up.   Defensive rebounding percentage rose when he played.

Mash all of that together and you come out with a player who can defend and rebound, a guy who can hit a three just fine, and a guy who will occasionally give you spectacular stretches of offensive play.  You also have a player who has limited offensive options, tends to disappear when the environment doesn't suit his strengths, and who has a fairly mediocre effect on the team and the game overall.  Martell doesn't hurt the Blazers at all.  He just doesn't help them consistently either...a development somewhat masked by the critical emergency relief he provided this year.  While he shows some signs of growth (defense, rebounding) he's not blossoming.  He would probably thrive if the Blazers committed to giving him minutes and to setting him up for offensive success but neither of those eventualities is in the cards as he duplicates Nicolas Batum's position and the team has plenty of people ahead of him in the offensive pecking order.

In the final analysis it was just another year for Martell Webster.  Some of it was good, some not so good, but that's the way it's always been.  As always you have to dwell on what Webster does well, praise him for the growth he did show, and wait another season to see if it's going to click for him.

Season Performance:  C+  (The plus is for durability and in deference to him having to adjust to a couple of different roles.)

Trend:  Static

Biggest Question Marks:  Ability to play outside of comfort zone, adjust to what the team needs from him, and generate points consistently inside the arc. 

Future with the Team:  Questionable.  If Martell could be bundled as part of a greater trade the Blazers probably wouldn't hesitate on his account.  However there's no harm in keeping him either.  He's like a bologna sandwich.  It's a good enough lunch but if you can swap it for someone's Ding Dong you have to think about it.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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