April 5th is officially Unsung Player Day — a tradition instituted by Don of With Malice. Let’s take a look at what makes a player Unsung, courtesy of With Malice:
Following that definition, I’m going to sneak a sly choice through on this one, with the vote that the Portland Trail Blazers’ Unsung Player this year has been Martell Webster.
Now, if you were into basketball betting, you wouldn’t be selecting Webster as a potential MVP for the Blazers any time soon. In fact, fans at the moment would be happy just to see Webster on the court. Unfortunately for the Blazers, Webster has only seen five minutes in one game this season on December 7, a game in which he re-injured his foot (thus he is averaging 5mpg for the season). The swingman came into the season as the incumbent starting small forward — a hotly contested position on the Portland roster.
So why am I mentioning Martell Webster at all in the context of the 2008-09 NBA season? Why is he Unsung or even relevant at all? The simple reason is, that Nate McMillan has recently given notice that Webster may well be back on the Blazers’ roster just in time for the NBA Playoffs. A Jason Quick podcast on the Oregon Live site recently mentioned the news, noting that Webster being on the roster would serve Portland well down the stretch of the playoffs if they were to need a shooter in a tight situation.
In other words, Webster’s shooting stroke is that well respected that the team would be keen to have him back for the playoffs, despite the fact that he has missed almost the entire season, sitting on the shelf. In fact, Webster’s shot is absolute money — he has perfect shooting form. Just take a look at the video below from last season where “The Definition” laid 24 points on the Utah Jazz in one quarter.
Despite this type of shooting stroke and the improved defence that Webster had been working on over the off-season, most have understandably forgotten about the swingman. This season the emphasis has been on the strong play of the Blazers and the surprise abilities of rookie Nicolas Batum, who nabbed that starting small forward role. Behind the Frenchman, the second unit is highlighted by scoring swingmen Rudy Fernandez and Travis Outlaw — two others that steal Webster’s available minutes at the two and three spots.
Looking at the sports betting odds, the Blazers still have a chance (in some eyes) of usurping the Denver Nuggets for the Northwest Division lead heading into the first round. That would be a handy chip to take, as they are a very strong home team. Adding a dead-on shooter like Webster to a lineup that is already in that position would make for some interesting lineup options — though most fans around the league have forgotten him, he that averaged 10.7ppg and 4.0rpg whilst knocking down 1.6 threes at 38.8% last season.
That, ladies and gents, is Unsung.
For views from across the NBA (and a couple of other sports) on Unsung Players Day, check out With Malice.