Expected Scoring – Martell Webster

We are continuing with our preseason Expected Scoring player profiles. Today we’ll be looking at the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Martell Webster.

If you’ve missed my other posts on the subject, Expected Points uses a player’s FGA from each area of the floor and multiplies it by the average number of points scored on that type of shot to come up with an Expected Point total from that area. The Expected Point total can than be compared to the actual number of points a player scored from that area to arrive at a Point Differential. This point differential is an expression of how a player shot compared to the league average, but I like that the comparison is drawn with actual point totals.  The average values of shots by location that I use (At Rim – 1.208, <10ft. – 0.856, 10-15ft. – 0.783, 16-23ft. – 0.801, 3PT – 1.081, FT – 0.759) were calculated by Albert Lyu of ThinkBlueCrew.

Webster was acquired by Minnesota this summer, on draft day. Webster had been a solid contributor in Portland, but never lived up to the promise of the 6th pick in the 2005 NBA draft. Portland had originally owned the 3rd pick, which they traded to Utah for the 6th pick and future draft choices. The 3rd pick became Deron Williams, but Portland also could have had Chris Paul, who went 4th, if they kept the pick. In addition Danny Granger, Andrew Bynum, and David Lee were all taken later in the 1st Round of that draft.

As I said, Webster was a solid contributor last season in Portland, but has looked very strong through 4 preseason games with Minnesota. Here are his traditional stats (per 40 minutes) from last season in Portland and the 2010-2011 preseason thus far:

It’s common knowledge that statistics can be inflated in the preseason, but Webster has seen a huge jump in his scoring and scoring efficiency. The most striking categories are his FG% and 3PT% which have each seen roughly a 7 point bump over last season. Let’s delve into this scoring efficiency jump a little more by examining his Expected Point totals and Point Differentials. Below is a table showing Webster’s Expected Points, Actual Points and Point Differential for each area of the floor over the past three seasons, and through the first 4 games of this preseason (all numbers are per 40 minutes). I have omitted 2009 as Webster suffered a foot injury and played in only one game. If you prefer a spreadsheet to the embedded table photo, here is the link.

Again, these numbers come with the caveat of being preseason inflated, but Webster has seen a meteoric rise in his overall Point Differential. Last season with Portland he scored 0.13 points less than expected per 40 minutes. With the Timberwolves he has been scoring 3.43 MORE points than expected per 40 minutes. Webster also has a positive Point Differential from every area of the floor, which means he is shooting above average from each area.

Webster entered the league with a reputation as a pure jumpshooter. We have seen flashes in the past, but in the past 4 games he’s been lights out. He’s scoring 0.86 more points per 40 than expected on jumpers from 16-23ft., and he’s scoring a terrific 1.72 more points per 40 than expected on his 3PTs.

One other thing that’s worth noting is how much his XPts totals have risen, compared to his time in Portland, on shots <10ft., 10-15ft. and 16-23ft. XPts is calculated by multiplying a constant expected point value by the number of shots attempted, which means this increase is a reflection of Webster taking more shots from those areas than he did in Portland. This would seem to be indicative of him filling a more primary scoring role with the Timberwolves, as opposed to the one he had with the Blazers. I also think it’s remarkable that whil his XPts total for 3PT shots declined, meaning he is attempting fewer threes per 40 minutes, Webster is making more of them so his Actual Point total on threes is higher than it has ever been. An increase in the number of long jumpers he’s been taking, coupled with a decrease in his shots at the rim would seem to be worrisome. However, Webster is actually getting to the free throw line at an increased rate, indicating that a good deal of balance still remains in his offensive game.

We are always cautioned not to get to excited about a player’s performance in the preseason, but it’s hard to miss what Martell Webster has been doing. It could very well be that he has simply been in a good rhythm. It could simply be that he’s healthier than he’s been in a while. It could be a case of him feasting on back-ups and unstructured, lackadaisical preseason defenses.

It could also be a case of a chip on his shoulder, from being traded, creating more focus. It could be a case of a young man blossoming and coming into his own. Despite being in the league for 5 years, Webster has only played 301 NBA games, and is still only 24 years old. It could be a case of a new role and responsibilities within the offense creating a previously unseen level of confidence. Call me an optimist, but I think the truth lies more in the latter explanations. His efficiency numbers may not maintain the same high level throughout the season, but Webster seems to be a player on the verge of a breakout campaign, marked specifically by his efficient scoring prowess.

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8 Comments

Filed under Expected Scoring Player Profiles, Minnesota Timberwolves, NBA, Statistical Analysis

8 responses to “Expected Scoring – Martell Webster

  1. Crow

    Thanks for the extra effort to offer a spreadsheet option.

    Kudos to Zach Harper for giving you a shout-out at the ESPN True Hoop blog and to you for getting one.

    Webster is an interesting case of player and role. Maybe he will be better in a bigger, “more natural” role. A Khan gamble. One of many.

  2. Crow

    Don’t know if it is just me but the spreadsheet link says I don’t have permission to view. Did you set it open to all?

    • A few of the spreadsheets were locked, but I think I have gone through and fixed them all.

      Webster’s efficiency may not hold up throughout the season, but I still think it will be a step up above what he did in Portland. Last season he was a servicable scorer with respect to efficiency. Thus far in the preseason he has been an elite scorer with respect to efficiency. My guess is in the regular season he will fall somewhere in the middle, and show himself to be a very good scorer with respect to efficiency.

      On a side note he was strong again tonight against Detroit (Minnesota’s 5th preseason game). He was 2-2 At the Rim. Only 1-4 on 16-23ft. jumpers, but 2-4 on 3PTs. Through 5 preseason games his raw +/- is a +28. He just looks so solid.

  3. Nick

    the real problem isn’t that the games are in preseason, it’s that there have only been 4 games… not really a relevant sample size

    That said, I think Webster is going to shine this year for the Wolves. He definitely has the ability, and now he’s going to get the opportunity to be a key contributor.

    As a Wolves fan, I hope he comes off the bench to start games and then takes over as the main scoring option with the 2nd unit.

    • Nick, thanks for reading and commenting. I agree that 4 games is a very small sample size, and it’s difficult to draw conclusions from it.

      However, what he has done in that small sample is something he has never done before in his career. Including his performance against Detroit tonight, the Timberwolves 5th preseason game, he’s shooting 47.2% from the field and 45.0% from the field. He’s never in his career had a 5 game stretch where he maintained those percentages. Using the more modest criteria of a FG% above 45% and a 3PT% above 40% I was able to find two 4 games stretches in his career (11/23/2005 – 11/29/2005 and 2/15/2006 – 2/24/2006) where he shot that well.

      The sample size is without a doubt extremely small, but it is also a statistical set that is unprecedented when compared to the rest of his career. Given all the new factors in play: new team, new teammates, new system, new role; I think it stands to reason that something different is going on with Martell Webster in Minnesota.

      I also like your idea of him coming off the bench and being the lead scoring option with the 2nd unit. Jonny Flynn will be back eventually and Webster seems like he would work really well in the backcout with Ridnour.

      Thanks again for reading and commenting!

  4. Austin

    I think the next step with respect to this Expected Scoring stat is to measure it against efficiency. For instance, compare league average TS%, actual TS%, and expected TS% (based on league avg TS% on a player’s shot distribution).

    Because while the current stats show skills, the real measure of productivity includes shot distribution – being better than average on long jumpers doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good to take more long jumpers.

    • Austin,
      Thanks for reading and commenting. I appreciate the suggestion and it’s definitely something I will look into more. At Hoopdata – http://hoopdata.com/teamxefg.aspx – you can find XeFG% calculated by team. This is what the team’s FG% based on their shot selection, if they shot the league average from each location. Unfortunately it’s not available player by player, but maybe that is something I can step up and provide this season. Thanks again for the suggestion!

      • Austin

        I hadn’t noticed that! Very nice. I like HoopData, hadn’t checked out the teams page in detail.

        Good luck pushing forward the limits of statistics!

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