Saturday, October 5, 2013

Blazer Player Review: Wesley Matthews

Remember when Wesley Matthews came over from Utah and took over for Brandon Roy? That’s what I thought, it’s still a tough memory to deal with, especially because he hasn’t had the same impact as Roy. How can the two be compared though? Trying to compare Matthews to Roy is just unfair to Wesley. Although he is not Brandon Roy, Matthews has done more than Roy in some respects.

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We’ll get back to the comparisons in a bit, but first let’s review Matthews past. After three years at Marquette Matthews wasn’t really anything special. However, his senior season he had a standout year. Only playing in 26 games, Matthews averaged 18.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game, all career highs up to that point. He also hit 52.9% of his shots from the field, 39.1% from three and 81.6 from the free throw line.
However, even after one wondrous season, Matthews still went undrafted in the 2009 draft. That’s the same draft as a lot of good players, Ty Lawson, Chase Budinger, Jrue Holiday, James Harden, etc. That year the Blazers drafted Victor Claver and Dante Cunningham and traded for Jeff Pendergraph. Even without being drafted, Matthews made his way onto an NBA roster and even started a lot of games his rookie season with the Utah Jazz.
In his one season with Utah, Matthews averaged 9.4 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists a game. He played in all 82 games and started 48 of those games. The Jazz made the playoffs that year and Matthews was a huge part of the team’s success. He played 37.1minutes a game and scored 13.2 points, rebounded 4.4, assisted 1.7 and stole the ball 1.8 times a game. After his good showing as a rookie, the Blazers offered him a 5-year $34 million contract. The Jazz could have matched, but chose not to and the rest is history.
In his three seasons with Portland he has only played a full season twice, his first year with the Blazers and the lockout shortened season. Matthews only played in 69 games last year, but the good news is he started all of those games. His first season with Portland was his best in terms of FG%, 3PT% and points per game. Matthews suffered a little bit last year with the offensive onslaught laid out by Nicolas Batum, Damian Lillard and L.A. There wasn’t as much for Matthews, but he still managed to average 14.8 points per game last year.
Although he may never be as offensively gifted as Roy, defensively Matthews is better and more established than Roy. Matthews is always ready and willing to take on the opposing team’s best weapon. However, Batum will sometimes take that role too. Regardless, Matthews has shown that he can guard the best of them and still get his points. The one knock on Matthews has been his lack of scoring at a position named for scoring, shooting guard. What most people don’t know is that being a lockdown defender takes a lot out of a player and makes it difficult to score on the other end.
Matthews’ starting job has been the most pondered question (other than if L.A. will be traded). However, with the additions of Mo Williams, Dorell Wright and C.J. McCollum it’s no wonder why Matthews’ starting spot is being questioned. Now, Williams won’t be as much of an issue, but he can score a lot too. Wright has proven he can be a sharpshooter from distance and McCollum is only going to get better. The logjam at shooting guard could spell a short leash for Matthews; however Terry Stotts has said that Matthews is the starter going into the season.
After the 2014-2015 season, Matthews is an unrestricted free agent, meaning he will have to prove that he is worth an extension this year and/or next year. With McCollum sitting in the wings, Matthews could be on his way out of Portland after his contract expires. If he can’t find his shooting touch and lockdown defense, he may not be around to see how good McCollum can be. However, all negativity and (possibly) odds against him I think Matthews can return to the player that earned the 5-year deal he got from the Blazers four years ago.
Matthews is a very capable shooting guard and is an even better defender. The last few years he has shot like Rudy Fernandez, inconsistently. Although the percentages will say otherwise, he had too many games where he was stellar followed by games where he flopped. Again, Matthews will turn it around. He will have to be more consistent from three, and with all the weapons the Blazers now have he can be more reliable for Portland. If the Blazers can establish L.A., Robin Lopez, Thomas Robinson and/or Meyers Leonard down low on the block, it will open up space for Lillard, Matthews and Batum for three pointers. Look for a big year out of Matthews or he could be out of Portland before you know it.