Recently, J. Gomz at Pounding the Rock posed the question "Who's The NBA's Best 3-and-D Players?"
By looking at players that shot over 35% from the 3-point line, while also having a usage of less than 20% and an assist rate of less than 15%, Gomz found 30 players who fit the mold. These attributes were used to "weed out any high-usage players who happen to launch a lot of threes... and guards that handle the ball a lot rather than spoting up."
Gomz came to the conclusion after reasonable analysis that, overall, Kyle Korver was the king of 3-and-D. Now, I have a tough time swallowing that pill myself. It's true, Korver is a fantastic 3-point shooter. He shot 45% from 3-land last year, leading the 30 players Gomz used in his analysis. Korver attempted 414 3-pointers, and these accounted for 68.9% of his total field goal attempts.
Our own Wesley Matthews shot 39% from 3-land (good for 12th out of 30), put up 425 3-pointers (good for 2nd overall out of 30), and these 3s were 52% of his overall field goal attempts (good for 12th overall). In offense alone, Matthews ranked 6th out of 30 players in Gomz simple point system (behind Korver, Green, Novak, Battier, and Foye).
When it came to defensive ability, Gomz looked at on/off court defensive rating differential (whether a team was better when that player was on or off the court), points per possession allowed (PPP), and total minutes so as to reward those who were on the court for longer. According to Gomz point system, Kawhi Leonard blew the competition away, though Matthews took 7th place overall [in defensive ability] behind Leonard, Korver, Ariza, Salmons, Ellington, and Green.
The BIG issue is this:
Matthews was 3rd overall in PPP, allowing opponents only 0.82 points per possession (behind only Ariza and Leonard). Matthews also ranked 1st overall in minutes (2403 mins. total), over a 100 more minutes than the next closest player (Singler at 2293). However, Matthews ranked 22nd (out of 30) in differential at -2.4.
In contrast, Korver was a positive 1.2 (ranking 11th) and Steve Novak was a positive 0.5 (ranking 16th).
Think about this: Korver played on a defensively-good Hawks team alongside Josh Smith and Al Horford. Korver's defensive rating last year, according to basketball-reference.com, was 105. Korver has a career DRtg of 107. In contrast, Matthews played on a defensively-TERRIBLE Blazers team, where his DRtg was 111, career DRtg is 109.
The problem with these sort of ratings is that they don't measure the caliber of the opponent who is being guarded. Some guys end up guarding the opponents strongest scorer on a consistent basis, which harms their personal rating, whereas a lesser defender may reap the benefits of defending the worst offensive player on the other team. Also, defense is never solely an individual endeavor.
Shooting guards as a class have poorer defensive ratings, which is a testament to the overall skills of the position in the NBA.Two-guards are often the best pure shooters on the court, as well as their quickness, explosiveness, handles, etc. that make them a tough package to defend.
Essentially, measuring individual defensive player contributions is arguably the most glaring deficiency of existing NBA statistics (see http://www.82games.com/comm26.htm for some further [old] comments).
My point is thus:
Korver is a fantastic shooter and an above-average defender. He has played on some strong defensive teams in his career, though he was never expected to guard the opposing team's best offensive player. He is normally a SF, but likely guards the team's worst offensive player out of the opposing team's PG, SG, and SF.
Matthews, on the other hand, is a great shooter and a good defender. He is clearly not at Kawhi's level on defense, nor Korver's level on offense. But he is on the floor more minutes than any of his compatriots, putting up one of the best PPPs in the 3-and-D mold, and he likely guards the opposing team's best or second-best offensive player (either him or Batum) most of the time. Not only that, but concerning team defense, Matthews played with one of the worst PG defenders in the league last year in Dame, and a defensive sieve in JJ Hickson who simply didn't play defense at all (see http://www.poundingtherock.com/2013/9/15/4728314/analysis-advanced-stats-defensive-big-men).
Looking back at the original analysis, Gomz came to the following conclusory rankings of 3-and-D players:
Now, this isn't too disagreeable, BUT I do disagree. First off, Battier and Novak play mostly in second units, where they played against lesser competition for less minutes (1700 for Battier & 1600 for Novak). Korver puts forth a great effort on defense, but he is not very athletic and he likely does not guard the other team's most talented offensive player while he's on the court. Danny Green is prototypical 3-and-D guy, but he played for one of the most premier teams in the league-- Kawhi Leonard and Tim Duncan anchored the defense; on offense he was expected to sit at the 3-point line for Tony Parker kick-outs.
However, our man Wesley Matthews was expected to create offense for himself at times; guard the best offensive player on the other team; while simultaneously play more minutes than 95% of the league (through occasional injuries as well).
In one man's opinion, Wesley Matthews is at or near the top of 3-and-D players in the NBA.