Webster’s Return Has Enhanced the Play of Young Wolves Squad

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Many fans of the Minnesota Timberwolves scratched their heads when the Wolves made the June 24th draft day trade of sending forward Ryan Gomes and the rights to Luke Babbitt to Portland in exchange for wing Martell Webster.

In his five seasons in Portland, Webster averaged just over 8 points per game, and an injury plagued 2008-09 campaign allowed Webster to only play in five minutes that season.

Webster had a very solid preseason in which he averaged 12.3 points in 26.7 minutes per game. Although comparing preseason stats with regular season success would be like comparing Degrassi to One Tree Hill, his preseason numbers did show the possibility of Webster being a consistent contributor to this young Timberwolves team.

General Manager David Kahn saw something that he liked in Webster, and after his first eight games in a Timberwolves uniform, the fans and the NBA are starting to see it as well.

Webster was added to a team that was deep at the wing position. Gomes was a name that many assumed would be dealt, but with returning players Corey Brewer and Wayne Ellington, and the addition of fourth overall selection Wes Johnson, it’s no question as to why many questioned giving up a valuable contract and a mid first round pick for depth at the wing position.

Not to mention the team traded for the draft rights to the 30th overall selection, Lazar Hayward.

To date, Webster has been a great addition to this young Timberwolves squad.

Through eight games with the Wolves, Webster is averaging 13.8 points per game, 3.6 rebounds per game, and 1.3 assists per game in 27.8 minutes per night.

He is having a career year, but it is what he has done for his team that has really stuck out.

Through 32 games for the Timberwolves, their point differential is –6.6, but that number has gone down since Webster joined the lineup. Since he came back the Wolves have won only two of those eight games, but their point differential in those games has only been –3.

Webster has ignited a bench that had previously allowed many leads to dwindle away as other teams second units were far superior to that of the Timberwolves.

Upon Webster’s return, there was a worry that he would take shots away from the rapidly improving Michael Beasley and Kevin Love. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Webster’s ability to spread the floor has aided Beasley and Love immensely.

Shooting just under 40 percent from three-point range, Webster has been able to force defenders to stay on him, instead of doubling down on Beasley and Love on the block.

In the eight games since Webster’s return, Love has continued his dominating play by averaging over 20 points and 15 rebounds per game. Love has had double doubles in every game since Webster’s return, including his career high 43-point 17-rebound night on December 18th at Denver

Beasley has seen his scoring average continue to rise due to Webster’s return. Averaging 23.5 points in those eight games, Beasley’s season scoring average has climbed to 21.9.

Johnson has also seen his play improve since Webster’s insertion into the rotation. The pressure to provide perimeter scoring seems to have lifted off of Johnson’s shoulders.

Over the eight game stretch, Johnson has averaged 10.8 points per game, including his career high 24-point night Monday against New Orleans.

It would be easy to assume that the better play by the Timberwolves would correlate with point guard Jonny Flynn’s return to the lineup. I assume otherwise.

Flynn and Webster came back the same night, and over those eight games Flynn’s numbers are eerily similar to those of Sebastian Telfair during the 24 games Flynn and Webster weren’t in the lineup.

Flynn has averaged only 5.8 points and 3.1 assists in 18.3 minutes per game during the eights games he has played this season. Telfair was averaging 7.4 points and 3.4 assists in 21 minutes a night before their returns to the lineup.

Kahn continues to make moves that at the time leave many scratching their heads, but seem to work out far better than even he could’ve imagined.

Adding Martell Webster on draft night was one of those deals, as his play over his first eight games have made the Timberwolves a significantly better team than they were just a few weeks ago.

-Brett Cloutier

You can follow Brett on Twitter, or listen to his weakly Podcast.

He can be contacted at cloutier@augsburg.edu

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