WASHINGTON -- Forty-one regular-season games, a handful of preseason contests, a training camp and an additional month ago, Martell Webster was sitting on the NBA sidelines, hoping someone would take a chance on his recovery from a back injury. Released by the Timberwolves to save some dough, it looked like the former No. 6 pick's career was in serious jeopardy.
Then, the Wizards called, and one workout later, they signed him for one year and $1.6 million. A major opportunity awaited Webster. Play well, and he could cash in next summer as a free agent.
And play well he has.
A year after being buried in Minnesota, Webster has arguably been Washington's most consistent healthy player. Friday's 13-point performance against those same Timberwolves raised Webster's scoring average to an even 10 points, and he's shooting 41 percent from downtown on the season. He's 25th in the NBA in spot-up scoring efficiency, according to MySynergySports.com, and he's boasting a true shooting percentage of 59.5. His defense isn't great, but he's also supplied great energy, excellent leadership and a dogged commitment to running the floor. At the very least, he's been everything the Wizards have hoped for and more.
Webster's also done this for half of a season, so it's not just a hot streak. There's still tons of time left in the season, but with each passing game, the Wizards have to ask themselves: how important is it to keep Webster around next year?
Understandably, the last thing Webster himself is focused on right now is his impending free agency. Still, he made a bold statement about his time in D.C. thus far.
"I love my team. I love this organization. It's the most fun I've had in my career," he told Bullets Forever. "It's not going to be my decision, so I'm going to continue to play the game the right way, play the way I know how to play, and all that will take care of itself."
There's still a lot that can happen, as Webster noted. The last 41 games will matter. Cost will matter. Trevor Ariza matters. The team's plans for the draft will matter.
But it's easy to see that the Wizards value Webster right now. Randy Wittman spoke glowingly Friday about the importance of perimeter shooting.
"[Shooting] means a lot, because now you've got to spread out, and that leaves the bigs one on one on the inside without bigs collapsing on them," Wittman said in the postgame press conference.
Wittman wasn't talking about Webster specifically, but that hits at the essence of Webster's strengths. Webster has taken 80 threes in spot-up situations this year, per MySynergySports.com. He's hit 39 of those shots. Given that the Wizards are building around John Wall's dribble-drives and Nene's post-ups, spot-up shooting is criticial.
But more importantly, Webster's corner three-point shooting has been deadly this season. Friday's 2-3 performance from the corners raised Webster's percentage to an even 50 percent (37-74). Via Kirk Goldsberry, only four players entered last night's game having shot at least 50 percent on corner threes (minimum 50 attempts): Steve Novak, Ray Allen, Arron Afflalo and, nicely enough, Bradley Beal (though NBA.com has him at 48.5 percent if you count his 2-4 performance on Friday).
Why does that matter? As has been covered several times on this site, John Wall loves dishing to corner three-point shooters. Last year, he had 77 corner-three assists. This year, he already has 11. Having someone who can knock down those shots at an elite rate is extremely valuable. Three-point percentages can come and go, but clearly, Webster has a skill that fits in beautifully with the Wizards' franchise player.
A lot can happen between now and the summer, but the longer we go, the more we should be asking "how much," not "if," when it comes to re-signing Webster this summer.