Zach Lowe of Grantland.com has a think piece on the "perfect role player" in an NBA game that has seen more three-point shooting on offense and paint-packing on defense in recent seasons. Portland Trail Blazers guard Wesley Matthews makes his list.
If I were running an NBA team - ha! - I'd be scouring the world for role players who can do all of the following three things:
• Defend shooting guards.
• Defend small forwards.
• Shoot 3-pointers proficiently.
This is the perfect role player, a sort of New Age Shane Battier. (The old-age Shane Battier actually fits the bill, for the most part.) I'd strongly consider using my second-round "flier" draft pick on someone who might someday fit this description, even over a droolworthy project big man.1 There has long been the notion that wing shooters, or even "3-and-D" guys, are easy to find - that they're just sort of laying around, waiting for the Spurs to discover the next Bruce Bowen or Danny Green (another candidate). But in talking with GMs and personnel types at all levels, there is something close to broad agreement that players who have checked off all three boxes are relatively rare, that their development is unpredictable, and that the ones who have proven themselves probably don't earn enough money. "They are very, very hard to find," says Bob Myers, the Warriors' GM. "And they are probably undervalued."
One of the most perfectly paid players in the NBA. Matthews is a consistent 38 to 40 percent 3-point shooter, and he can make contested looks in high-pressure spots. He historically hasn't been quite as efficient when asked to create on his own, and the gap in salary between Matthews (about $7 million per season) and Nicolas Batum (about $11 million) is illustrative. The Blazers see Batum as a guy who can defend, hit 3s, and create offense for others, and though injuries cut Batum's scoring output over the last couple months of the season, he made huge strides as a secondary distributor and pick-and-roll passer. Matthews doesn't quite have that in his game, and his salary is nearing the upper edge of how the NBA likely values New Age Battiers - especially since he's not as long as someone like Leonard.
But Matthews is tough and strong, and he and Batum often swap wing assignments, with Matthews defending bulkier small forwards who carry post-up games. That's valuable.
PS Thanks to LeGarrette Blount's Right Fist in the FanShots.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter