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Who is James Webb III ... and why is he getting all those minutes?

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Los Angeles Lakers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

With 2:54 left in the first quarter of the Nets-Lakers game, James Webb III replaced DeMarre Carroll for the Nets.

Who, you say?

The 6’9” small forward has been getting more and more minutes since being signed by the Nets to a two-way deal on January 15 and “called up” from Long Island on January 27. In the four games with Brooklyn, the Boise State product has played 50 minutes, including 12 against the Lakers, when he scored his first NBA points on a 3-pointer, his specialty.

One big reason why Webb is getting the minutes is that Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is hurt, but the other reason is that the Nets hope their coaching staff can pull off another development miracle and make Webb another NBA rotation player, as it did with G-Leaguers Sean Kilpatrick, Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris and Quincy Acy.

Webb is 24, a little older than Milton Doyle, the Nets other two-way deal. Coming out of Boise State in 2016, Webb was seen as a player who could get drafted late in the second or go undrafted. Here’s what Chad Ford, late of ESPN, wrote of him ranking him 60th on his top 100 prospects.

Positives

Long, athletic forward

Good shooter with three point range

Runs the floor very well

Explosive leaper

Solid rebounder

Negatives

Needs to add a lot of strength

Old for his class

As it turned out, Webb wasn’t drafted, but signed a partially guaranteed deal ($65,000) with Philly and played all six preseason games in 2016, averaging 4.2 points and 3.8 rebounds. He was cut at the end of training camp and was picked up by the Delaware 87ers, the 76ers’ G-League affiliate.

In 39 games with Delaware last year, he averaged 13.2 points and 9.3 rebounds before he went down with an ankle injury in mid-March, just as the season was ending. In one of his last games, Webb had a 40-point, 13-rebound effort against Maine.

Back in Philly this preseason, he was cut again and again headed down the Delaware Turnpike where he had a similar season until the Nets signed him on January 15. As Webb tweeted...

Once on the Long Island roster, it became quite clear what the Nets wanted Webb to do. Shoot, a lot, and from deep. Of the 53 shots he took in five G-League games, 45 were from deep. He started slowly but in his last three games in Long Island, he shot 45.8 percent from deep, 11-of-24, and had a 20-point game.

Then, on January 27, Hollis-Jefferson sat with a groin injury and Webb was on the Long Island Expressway to Brooklyn, getting more and more of an opportunity.

So how’s he looked? He’s shown a lot of the positives and negatives ESPN noted. He is thin and he is inconsistent, but he can run the floor, can jump and has nice form, if not yet results, on his 3-point shot. And yes, he’s sometimes looked lost on D. But he’s getting more comfortable on D, too, and he takes pride in his defense.

He showed some signs of potential vs. the Lakers. He finally got his first NBA points on a quick-release 3-pointer in the first half and grabbed three rebounds in 12 minutes. He also made a nice pass into the post in the second quarter that Jarrett Allen converted, giving Webb his third assist in four games. He also gave Kyle Kuzma some trouble.

More importantly, he got in the game early. These were not garbage minutes. The Nets like him. Here’s one reason. All those young guys we talk about constantly? None of them are 3-and-D.

Maybe he doesn’t look that good now, but until RHJ comes back and maybe after, expect the Nets to give him minutes. And who are we to question the Nets’ development decisions?