"I thought we were in the trust tree, in the nest. Are we not?"
–Will Ferrell as Frank Ricard (a.k.a. Frank the Tank) in Old School
Despite some considerable potential (buttery corner jumper, sneaky explosive athleticism), it’s been tough to put a lot of trust in Martell Webster since he arrived in the league as an 18-year-old in 2005.
The simple reason: maddening inconsistency. Webster’s first seven years in the NBA were littered with all-too-brief hot streaks, the kind of outbursts that would get him into your fantasy lineup just in time for a five-point dud.
That all began to change last season, when Webster got a lot of run due to Trevor Ariza and Bradley Beal injuries, and posted career-highs of 11.4 ppg and 1.8 3s in 29 minutes per game (including 13.3 ppg and 2.3 3s over his final 39 games).
It wasn’t anything groundbreaking, but it was the most prolonged productive stretch of Webster’s career. And so far this season, he has not only maintained that production, but taken it up another notch. After first filling in for Ariza (hamstring), Webster is now getting heavy starter’s minutes with Beal out again with more fibula trouble. And in his last eight games, Webster has posted 16.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.5 spg and 3.3 treys in 41 minutes per night – numbers that rank him seventh overall on Basketball Monster’s 9-category leaderboard during that stretch.
We can’t expect Webster to maintain that lofty level of production, but I do think we can expect heavy minutes going forward. After all, the Wizards have said Beal will be reevaluated a little less than two weeks from now, but the last time he suffered a fibula injury (to the same leg, in April), he was out for most of the summer, and didn’t start taking contact until August. I’m not saying Beal is done for the season, because honestly I have no idea how long he’ll be out, but I am saying it has to be considered a major concern.
I’m also saying this: After so many years as a maddening, hard-to-predict fantasy option, the equation with Webster has finally been reduced to something simple: If he gets playing time, he’s going to produce. Welcome to the circle of trust, Martell.
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In other hoops-related matters…
When you consider the Bulls backcourt sans Derrick Rose, don’t forget about Jimmy Butler. He could be out a while longer (Butler was unable to put weight on his injured foot as of Monday), but once he returns, a significant opportunity should be waiting. And as a reminder of what he’s capable of, Butler averaged 14.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 2.7 apg, 1.7 spg, 0.7 bpg and 1.4 3s in his final 10 games last year.
(Friday afternoon update: Butler is "getting closer" to a return.)
In the meantime, keep a close eye on Tony Snell. The No. 20 overall pick didn’t do anything explosive Wednesday (13 points, 3 assists, 2 steals, 3 treys), but he played 37 minutes and looks like an intriguing short-term add for at least as long as Butler is out. Also, in case you’re wondering, I’m ignoring Mike Dunleavy outside of deeper leagues. Sure, he could produce some good lines in the coming weeks, but personally I’d rather take a shot on someone with more upside this early in the year.
Speaking of which, go get Derrick Williams. It’s not clear how much Williams will play in Sacramento, but with only John Salmons/Travis Outlaw ahead of him at SF, and Jason Thompson/Patrick Patterson ahead of him at PF, it’s possible the answer is “a lot.” That wouldn’t necessarily result in standout numbers, as we’ve seen Williams get extended minutes before, with somewhat mediocre results (14.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 0.9 3s and a weak 0.7 spg / 0.5 bpg in his final 40 games last year). With that said, this is the No. 2 overall pick from 2011 who’s still just 22 years old and has a chance to get a lot of minutes on a bad team. I can nitpick about a lack of defensive stats, but changes of scenery like this don’t pop up this early in the season all that often. Owned in just 10 percent of Yahoo leagues as of Friday morning, Williams is well worth a low-risk, 8-10 game trial if you’ve got room.
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And now, a bunch of quick-hitting random thoughts…
Random Thoughts, Part 1: O.J. Mayo has played 10 games this year. In his five good games, he has averaged 23.2 ppg. In his five bad ones, he has averaged 6.6. As annoying as he’s been, I would try to stay patient until he (hopefully) gets this fixed. After all, the Bucks need him to produce, and the best-case scenario here is still pretty good. … Speaking of Bucks, I’d buy low on Ersan Ilyasova right now. He seems to do this every year: Maddeningly slow start followed by prolonged explosive stretch. Acquire before the eruption occurs. … Channing Frye’s last six games: 15.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.2 spg, 1.3 bpg and 2.8 3s. I don’t expect him to stay this hot, but something in the ballpark of his career-best 2010-11 (12.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 0.6 spg, 1.0 bpg, 2.2 3s) is a potential ceiling, and the floor shouldn’t be all that much lower. … Also in Phoenix, now is the time to try to trade for Eric Bledsoe, before he returns from this strangely persistent (but apparently not that serious) shin bruise. Meanwhile, as much as I appreciate Goran Dragic, now is the time to shop him. He’s averaging 20.5 ppg / 8.8 apg with Bledsoe sidelined, and 14.3 ppg / 5.0 apg with Bledsoe in the lineup.
Random Thoughts, Part 2: If Victor Oladipo’s turnover issues are scaring anyone in your league (4.1 per game including games of 7, 9, 8 and 8), make an offer now. This is a flat-out electric player who’s on the verge of taking off (last five games: 15.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 4.2 apg, 2.4 spg, 1.0 bpg, 1.0 3s and 4.4 TOs). It may already be too late to get him, but there’s no harm in a polite inquiry. … Re: Ricky Rubio – stay patient. Rubio has posted just 7.6 ppg (along with 5.1 rpg, 7.6 apg and 2.8 spg) in his last eight games. But the scoring should eventually become more consistent (he scored a season-high 17 on Wednesday), and once it does, Rubio is going to drop the hammer on some box scores. … Speaking of staying patient, I still feel confident that Tim Duncan is going to get hot soon and offer up a window to trade him. He’s had some strong per-minute stats the last week or so, and would have likely had big lines against the Cavs and Pelicans if not for Spurs blowout wins. Keep trying to pretend like he’s not on your roster until the hot streak hits. Then trade him. … Marcin Gortat has played 30 minutes or more in every game this season, including an average of 18.7 ppg, 11.0 rpg and 1.7 bpg (in 38 mpg) over his last three. After a frustrating 2012-13, this looks like the breakout Gortat we saw two years ago in Phoenix.
Random Thoughts, Part 3: Reggie Jackson’s recent run (including 23 points on Wednesday) has my attention, but he has yet to top 30 minutes in a game all season, and I can’t say I trust Scott Brooks to keep giving him a consistent opportunity every night. … After averaging 11.4 ppg in his first seven games, DeAndre Jordan has posted just 7.6 ppg in his last seven. The good news: He’s still a force. Jordan has double-digit boards in 10 of 14 games this season, and is averaging 12.8 rpg and 1.9 bpg for the year – in a career-high 35 mpg. … I keep waiting for the Nuggets to give Evan Fournier a long look at SG. Based on Wednesday (four minutes off the bench), it won’t be happening any time soon, but Fournier is a name to file away for later in the year. … Another watch-list name: Brandon Rush. He has only played one game so far, but could eventually get a lot of run for the Jazz if his knee will allow it. … Kevin Garnett has actually been productive on a per-minute basis lately (last six games: 8.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 0.7 spg, 1.3 bpg in just 23 mpg), but the 4-11 Nets are holding his minutes in check for a playoff run that at this rate won’t be happening.