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Martell Webster needs to be happy again

Nagging injuries darkened the normally-jovial Webster's mood last season. Once he returns from back surgery, he'll need to be more upbeat, because that usually translates to his play. Also: he needs to play better defense.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

This is our ninth Summer Checklist piece where we break down an area of weakness each player on the roster can improve. Previously: Bradley BealJohn WallMarcin Gortat | Nene | Otto Porter | Paul Pierce | Kris Humphries | Glen Rice Jr.

With Trevor Ariza doing what he does best during contract years, Martell Webster took an understandable backseat at the small forward spot for the Wizards last season. The not-so-good part of that situation: Webster's confidence took a backseat throughout the season as well. The idea of a two-headed monster never really came to fruition, though Ariza carried so much of the load single-handedly that the Wizards weren't totally out of sorts when Webster's half didn't match what Ariza's brought to the table.

Numbers-wise, Webster didn't fall off much from his first season in Washington, yet something seemed amiss this past season. Interestingly enough, once the bench got its much-needed makeover in February, Webster's offensive game began to fall off considerably. He had an erratic final four months of the season (including the playoffs), shooting under 40 percent for all but one month. This is a dramatic difference from his first four months (including the one game in October), where he never shot below 44.2-percent. Nagging injuries played a role, and that'll only become more of a factor as he recovers from offseason back surgery.

WIth no Ariza this season, Webster will need to shake off the rust from time missed due to his injury and immediatelyget into the flow of things once he returns. There is a reason the team threw tons of money at him after his first season in D.C. He is a big piece to this team's makeup around John Wall, he needs to produce and there will be no time for confidence issues.

I still believe that despite the dip in offensive production, he will get his groove back ... as long as Martell understands his importance to this team and the belief that his teammates have in him. It's an obvious correlation, but one that is especially true with Martell. When he is having fun in the locker room and on the court, he is productive.

The bigger worry with Martell heading into next season is on defense. He shows flashes of defensive tenacity, but not nearly enough as is necessary. As Umair previously noted:

Hewas a sieve on defense in 2014, incapable of chasing shooters around screens and was routinely caught sinking too low into the paint as a help defender around pick and rolls.

We need to see more of this, a good example of what he can do defensively, from his time with the Timberwolves:

Martell was quick to acknowledge it when he insisted Ariza deserves to be the starter, but there was a reason why Ariza was so important to this team last season. They both could shoot, but Martell was more of a liability defensively, especially against the league's best offensive players. The Wizards held opponents to more than five points less when Webster was out of the game, and that number increased to nearly six points during the playoffs. That's nearly a nine point drop-off between our starting and backup small forwards.

And depending on Otto Porter's progressions this season, we may need to rely on Webster even more once he returns healthy. Get that back healthy and ready to go, Mr. Webster, along with your confidence and legs. You'll be needing both of them this season.