Summer Reading: Martell Webster

This is part of an offseason series on various things of certain natures that each Blazer can work on during the summer to prepare for the 2010-2011 title push. This is strictly about on-court performance, so topics like trades and contracts are not discussed at length. Remember to click “Continue Reading” at the jump.

The easiest way to describe Martell Webster’s 2009-10 season is to say he did not progress like we all thought he could. So far in this ‘Summer Reading’ series we have talked about Blazers who took step forwards in their game and ability to contribute to their team. I don’t think there are many who would argue that in a sense, Webster took a step backwards.

Dating back to the beginning of the year, it has been a long road for No. 23. Coming into the season, Webster was already in an odd place. He missed 81 games of the 08-09 campaign which opened the door for the emergence of Nic Batum. Combine that with the presence of Travis Outlaw and Rudy Fernandez and it was easy to lose him in the shuffle. At the same time during that 08-09 season, many Blazer fans had to wonder the possibilities of this team with Webster in the lineup. Ideally, he had the skillset to push this team to a different level. His athleticism (and ability to slash) along with his ability to shoot the ball (and thus space the floor) made many believe he was a dangerous weapon that could give Portland another look.

The only problem, and it’s a recurring one with Martell, was his consistency. At the beginning of the year he had not quite proven that he could do any of that on a consistent basis. On paper he could do everything people asked or were wondering but no one had truly seen it outside of preseason flashes in ’08. Unlike others, coming into this season the question was not ‘could he’ it was ‘would he’. And in the 09-10 season, Webster again struggled with consistency. It is easy to remember how much Webster struggled after the All-Star Break because it is most fresh in our mind. Let us not forget that in this season, Webster played some of the best basketball of his professional career. Why? Because he was consistent.

So far we have talked about how the rookies benefited from the Blazers gluttony of injuries, but let’s not forget how much it helped Webster. With the injuries, Webster was forced into action and given every opportunity to produce. One of the biggest question marks surrounding his career has been his mental game, i.e. his confidence. With no one breathing down his back Webster excelled. In the month of January, Webster averaged 15 points a game, 5 rebounds, shot 42.5% from the field and 39% from behind the arc. As a starter on the year, Webster averaged 11 points a game, shot 42% from the field and 39% from behind the arc. Off the bench, those numbers dipped to 5.6 points a game, 36% from the field and 29% from behind the arc.

The main problem with that dip? Coming off the bench is going to Martell Webster’s role. It does not take a rocket scientist to see that Nic Batum has planted le drapeau tricolore on the starting SF spot. At this point, Webster has got to begin to wrap his brain around what his role is going to be. This year we learned that if given volume minute and shots he can produce. This is great in case of an injury. Unfortunately, we all know that opportunities are going to be slim. Unlike players like Bayless and Cunningham who have the chance to expand their repertoire, Webster has to begin refining his game. He has to start applying his skills in a more effective way or else things are not going to work out how any saw them.

For Webster’s summer reading, we’re going to touch on a few different topics:

  • Mental Game: The 10-11 season will be Webster’s sixth season in the league. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a make or break year when it comes to this category. If he is going to come close to reaching his potential he has got to start working on his mental game. The confidence issues, the lack of aggression, sometimes floating, all of that has to start ceasing. When he isn’t producing, it’s because he is doing the things I just listed and all of those are byproducts of the mental issues that have surrounded him. Plus, Portland cannot afford to have him almost costing the team games because he does not know the game situation and thinks they need to foul. Or shooting a running three-pointer.
  • Defense: Webster had an odd year defensively. Early on he earned shockingly high praise from Kelly Dwyer for defense…and then it just fell off. And I mean fell off like Heidi and Spencer are about too. His activity and effort was always there, but sometimes it was all for naught. Webster has got to look at a guy like Grant Hill and try and start seeing angles. Also, he has to get a little stronger so he can take some blows. Guys like LeBron and Carmelo just big bodied him time after time. He has the athletic tools to be a great defender, he just has to start using his brain a little more (sensing a theme here). There were too many times when Webster was guarding elite players and I was thinking ‘uh-oh’.
  • Make Shots: It sounds a little facetious but Webster has to knock down shots. He got plenty of open looks and just did not knock them down. Last year Webster shot 37% from behind the arc. His percentage was worse than Brandon Jennings and he actually put up more threes. That’s not acceptable. In this offense it’s not like Webster has to shoot off the dribble or anything, just knock down open shots. According to Synergy, 41% of his offense this season came from ‘Spot-Up’ opportunities, so you can see the importance of knocking down shots.
  • Be a threat to drive: Webster has got to learn to either a) make teams pay for pressing up on him and taking his shot or b) fake like he can do that. The worst scenario in these instances is turning the ball over, so even just being able to pump fake and take one or two dribbles for a pullup jumper would be moderately effective.

Who should Martell study to improve? Coup said that he needs to stop trying to be a young Glen Rice and try to be more like Glen Rice on the Lakers in the early 2000’s. I would say he needs to look at a guy like Bruce Bowen, whose ability to play team basketball, play defense and space the floor could help him figure out what he needs to become. An interesting one that Coup came up with is that Martell needs to look at tape of Ray Allen circa right about now. Essentially they get their buckets in similar fashion: Ray comes off screens, scores in transition, gets in good position to shoot and takes layups when the defense lets him.

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Tags: Glen Rice Martell Webster Nba Basketball Nic Batum Portland Trail Blazers Ray Allen Summer Reading

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