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Since real news is still hard to come by, let's continue our slow roll through the roster and look at last year's part-time Golden Boy, one Mr. Martell Webster.

The most curious thing about Martell's career so far is how he's ridden the roller coaster of public opinion.  When we drafted him most people were (predictably) high on him.  Then he struggled through the first part of the season, got NBDL'ed, and half the world (including the national media) was opining that he was a bust.  A couple months and a couple of 20-point efforts later and he was a fan favorite.  Scoring in double digits for 8 of his last 11 games set his popularity afire and led to speculation that he might be the Next Big Thing.  Then Brandon Roy gets drafted, plays a little defense in summer league, and now Martell is supposedly shuffled to the bench at shooting guard or booted to small forward behind Darius Miles (at least in the court of public opinion).  Obviously there are a lot of questions surrounding this kid.

Statistical analysis is always precarious with rookies.  The learning curve is so steep and playing time so fragile that usually you're better throwing out the mish-mash of numerical results entirely.  Nevetheless Martell's stats show a couple of fairly clear trends:

  1.  He can shoot.  His 40% overall clip doesn't seem to indicate it, but that stat line is inherently more mercurial and less skill-dependent than specialty shooting, and thus less important in his first season. Even so, he still averaged 46% in significant minutes during the last month of the season. More telling, Martell shot 36% from beyond the arc for the year which is pretty impressive for anybody.  There's no reason to assume that will decline.  He also shot 86% from the foul line which is a breath of fresh air on this team.  He would do well to get to the charity stripe more often.  Right now over 80% of his shots are jumpers.
  2.  He developed a more well-rounded game as the year progressed, particularly in rebounding.  He averaged 4 or more rebounds from the guard spot in 12 of the last 20 games he played and netted 3 in four others.  He also played well enough overall to earn a spot in the regular rotation, which doesn't happen with Nate if you're one dimensional or clueless.  (Remember Juan Dixon was still sitting on the bench behind him if Nate so desired.)
  3. Despite his well-publicized difficulties putting the ball on the floor, he didn't turn it over nearly as much as most of his high-minute teammates.  In fact only Khryapa turned it over less overall.  On the other hand neither did he garner assists or particularly help the offense with his passing.  This is indicative of him functioning mostly as a scorer, an endpoint for the play.  He hasn't learned to help or hurt anyone else in the offense yet, which may indicate impending growing pains if he plays a bigger role this season.  We don't know yet how he fits into the overall offense. We do know that his production declined last year (and in summer league too) when he became solely a stand-still, bail-out shooter.
  4.  He is not a good defender. shows that the team allowed 5 more points per 100 possessions when Martell was on the court than when he was off and also allowed a higher effective field goal shooting percentage.  But then anybody who watched the games last year could have told you by sight alone that he has trouble moving his feet.  He's tall, good-sized, and committed, but neither fleet nor tough.
This combination leaves his value up in the air.  At worst he's probably the next Wes Person.  And don't forget Wes was a very good player in this league for a number of years.  But then again even at his best Person probably would not have been drafted (in essence) #3 overall.  On the other hand if Martell learns the offense a little bit more, develops a dribble and enough of a first step to get himself to the line, and just plays semi-adequate (not sterling) defense he'll eventually be a lock to start on most squads in the league.  Even half of that would probably qualify him to start for us this year.

How quickly he develops these skills and how diligently he displays them will determine where and how much he plays this season.  Despite all the Roy talk, my sense is the starting shooting guard position is Martell's to win or lose in training camp.  I do see him being tried at small forward when (notice not "if") Darius spazzes out and/or Travis proves too inconsistent to play, but I have a hard time imagining the coaching staff telling him to learn a new position right off the bat when he has so much left to learn at the old one.  I doubt they'll want to risk his confidence like that, especially when they need him desperately at the 2.  If he can't win the starting guard slot then he'll probably see bench minutes at both swing spots interchangeably until he satisfies Nate that he's worthy of a regular position.

As I said a couple days ago, I think averaging 13 ppg for the season would be really good for Martell.  You can add to that a 36%+ 3-point percentage, a 42%+ overall shooting percentage, 4+ free throw attempts a game, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and not being a total embarrassment on defense.  Yes, the Blazers would like him to be that multi-dimensional.  One problem we've had in the recent past is too many one or two dimensional players that require others to cover for them. (If you've heard opposing commentators say the Blazers are "a strange collection of talent" that's what they mean.)  Our three main guards are the best bets to break that pattern.  And unlike some of our other guys, I think it's possible Martell could fulfill most of these goals.

So what's your take?  What do you expect of Martell in terms of position, playing time, and production?  Comment or e-mail as desired.

--Dave (