Martell Webster is finding himself in an unfamiliar position heading into the upcoming season. The former Seattle Prep star and Blazer starter from ’07-’08 is playing catch-up in Portland.
Webster’s foot injury, which kept him from seeing the floor for all but five minutes last season, is ready and cleared for action. Still, Webster is stuck in a logjam of small forwards vying for the starting nod. The edge has got to go to last year’s starter, second-year Frenchman Nicolas Batum. After Batum, the Blazers seem content with tagging Travis Outlaw as their main fire power for the second unit and Rudy Fernandez is a legitimate threat to push for more minutes.
As the Blazers continue to drive their now maturing youth movement and become more of a threat in the West, Webster’s role is as undefined as ever. Through three games this preseason, Webster is averaging a modest an 8.3 ppg and has only connected on 2-of-8 shots from three-point land.
For the fifth-year small forward, who has always been hyped for his stroke behind the arc, this is an important next couple of months in his re-emergence to the League. It is not hard to imagine Coach Nate McMillan awarding Webster with decent minutes right out of the gate, but there is too much talent at the small forward position to go without controversy.
Which begs the question: Is Webster Portland’s guy for the future at small forward?
Portland has not only invested a lottery pick and four years on developing Webster to let him go to a trade now, but the organization likes him. Webster is a Northwest guy, hailing from right up the I-5 highway in Seattle. Alongside Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden, Webster makes sense at the three being a spot-up shooter. Batum is their defensive small forward, while Fernandez and Outlaw are left to battle for another scorer’s spot off the bench.
McMillan has corralled his young team, which is itching to fast break, into running one of the more successful half-court offenses in the League. For the Blazers’ tempo, Martell absolutely fits the bill and will probably continue to bury himself in the corner for spot-up jumpers. I don’t know if Webster will be the long-term solution for Portland, but on paper, he does fit the Blazers’ needs on all cylinders.
Only Webster’s adaptability and health will decide his future and success with Portland this season. He may not have the same media storm or Rip City love backing him as he did before last season, but look out for Martell’s progress this season. His stats won’t turn any heads outside of Portland, but if he can improve on his 10.7 ppg and 39 percent from beyond the arc, he will find a more secure role on one of the top teams in the West.
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