Unveiling The Wizard: Martell Webster

In yet another excellent piece for Grantland yesterday, Zach Lowe wrote about how the growing analytics movement is making its way into front offices around the league.

Mar 13, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards small forward Martell Webster (9) attempts a shot against the Milwaukee Bucks during the first half at the Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA Today Sports

Part of that revolution is realizing which shots are most efficient. Obviously shots at the rim are the most efficient, but what many people around the league have begun to realize, is that three-pointers, especially from the corner, are actually one of the most efficient shots in the game.

Lowe says in his piece,

“The [Raptors] analytics team is unanimous, and rather emphatic, that every team should shoot more 3s.”

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Over in Washington, Martell Webster is already ahead of the curve.

The 6th overall pick in the 2005 draft by the Portland Trail Blazers, Webster has always been regarded as a good shooter.

His profile from Draft Express in 2005 reads in part,

“Webster is a very natural shooter with excellent mechanics and nice elevation on his jump shot. Once he sets his feet and gets his shoulders square, he is lights out. He can hit his jumper from anywhere on the court”

Over the course of his 8-year career, Webster hasn’t lived up to the expectations that come with being the 6th overall pick. Due in some part definitely to a series of injuries, including a broken foot that caused him to miss the entire 2008-2009 season. He has however, proven that he can shoot, with a career three-point percentage of 38.8%.

This year, though, Webster has gone from a solid three-point shooter to one of the premier sharpshooters in the league.

In his first year as a Washington Wizard, Webster is averaging career highs in three-pointers attempted (4.3), made (2.0), and points (11.5) per game. He also is shooting a career best 45% from deep, the fourth best mark in the league.

So how has Webster been so good from deep this season? First, lets take a look at his shot chart.

Remember that corner three-pointers are one of the most efficient shots in basketball. Now take a look at the right corner, where Webster is shooting an astounding 60%. Most of these corner threes come off spot up opportunities, in which Webster is able to set his feet, which the scouting report mentioned makes him a deadly shooter.

Recently, Webster went on a 5 game stretch in which he shot 24/47 from deep. It was a continuation of the upward trend he’s shown ever since John Wall came back from injury. Since Wall returned on January 12th, Webster is shooting 48.2% on threes.

Wall’s ability to get into the lane almost at will has really helped Webster, who likes to spot up. With Wall driving the middle, it forces the defense to collapse, and leaves Webster with open looks.

Spot ups from the corner amount for most of Webster’s three-point attempts, but the Wizards also like to run a flare screen action for Webster. A fairly simply set, Webster begins with the ball near the top of the key and makes a pass to the wing to Wall, who has just run off a triple screen, drawing the defense’s attention. Then, once Wall receives the pass, Emeka Okafor moves to set a flare screen for Webster. He sets the screen and Webster, instead of running off it towards the basket, flares out to the wing, which the defender is not expecting.

Already in his 8th season, it would be surprising if Webster ever becomes the star player that some expected back when he was drafted 6th overall in 2005. It does however, seem that he has found his calling in the league. Not everyone can be a star, and that’s okay. Teams need great shooters too, and that’s what Webster is.