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2010-11 Portland Trail Blazers Roster Rundown: Wesley Matthews

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Our player-by-player look at the roster of the Portland Trail Blazers continues today with shooting guard Wesley Matthews.  When the Blazers signed Matthews to a five-year deal worth $6-7 million per year with a huge signing bonus last summer all the braying concerned overpaying.  National pundits panned the move while local fans crossed their fingers and hoped for the bright side to become evident.  Injuries to starting guard Brandon Roy not only brought out that bright side quickly, it made the deal one of the best of the off-season.  Where would the Blazers have been without Matthews this year?  Starting Rudy Fernandez at off-guard and playing Patty Mills big minutes at the two as well.  That's a...less than pleasant thought.  Fortunately Matthews filled a starting position on a winning team adequately, occasionally brilliantly.  Considering he's only in his second season, the Blazers appear to have gotten their money's worth.  

Wesley Matthews' numbers:

 

10-11

09-10

Change

Games

82

82

---

Minutes

2758

2025

+733

MPG

33.6

24.7

+8.9

FG%

44.9%

48.3%

-3.4%

3PT%

40.7%

38.2%

+2.5%

FT%

84.4%

82.9%

+1.5%`

FGA/36

12.8

10.0

+2.8

3PTA/36

4.9

2.9

+2.0

FTA/36

4.1

3.4

+0.7

TRB/36

3.4

3.4

---

AST/36

2.1

2.2

-0.1

STL/36

1.3

1.1

+0.2

TO/36

1.8

1.7

+0.1

USG%

21.3%

16.5%

+4.8%

ORTG

114

113

+1

DRTG

109

108

+1

PER

15.5

12.3

+3.2

TShooting%

58.2%

59.2%

-1.0%

NETPTS/100*

+4.9

-2.0

+6.9

PPG

15.9

9.4

+6.5

PPG/36

17.0

13.7

+3.3

Click through for an analysis of the stats, the story behind the numbers, and a look at Matthews' future potential.

Obviously Matthews' year-over-year numbers incorporate a change of teams, systems, and roles.  They have to be taken with a grain of salt.  But a couple of generalizations are in order.  You always worry when a guy moves up in playing time and rotation spot.  Bright and shiny as the 10th man can turn into dull and floppy as the 4th.  Matthews played roughly a third more minutes, got more touches, and shouldered a whole lot more responsibility this year.  He did well.  His scoring average rose by game and minute both.  His field goal percentage dropped but that's not unusual as more shots come your way.  45% is still great for a guard, especially one currently making a living from the perimeter.  Matthews' three-point percentage rose, a development which saved the Blazers from going 0-for-everything when it came to deep shooters.  He attempted 4.9 threes per 36 minutes, second on the team.  Roughly 37% of his attempts came from distance.  Despite apparent streakiness, he converted his bread-and-butter shot and for that he gets credit.  Most of his other stats remained level, a decent development when you consider the Blazers liked his all-around game to begin with.

Matthews also leaves a couple areas of concern.  At times during the year his defense has played a prominent role, particularly when the Blazers needed help containing quick point guards.  Matthews wouldn't stop speedy opponent but he could usually stay in front of them, at least making life difficult.  This is far more than guys like Miller, Roy, and Mills could accomplish.  But for a touted defensive player a defensive rating of 109 is disappointing.  Like many Blazers Matthews drifts outside on offense.  His rookie year saw him shooting 57% of his shots from the perimeter, 43% inside.  This year the ratio was 72%-28%.  Jump shooting often gets blamed on Portland's scheme but we've seen ample evidence of shooting guards (cough...Brandon Roy) taking defenders off the dribble in this offense.  As we discovered yesterday, it's not like Andre Miller was hogging the ball and the lane either.  Matthews had trouble scoring on the drive because Matthews has shaky handle for a shooting guard.  When he could get a straight line to the bucket he was fine but any lateral movement led to a stop or a turnover.  At 3.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.2 steals per game he's not exactly filling up the rest of the stat board either.  Mushy defense, no dribbling, and no all-around game means that three-pointer better go in like Del Curry's.

Still, the jump in PER, Net Points per 100, as well as the aforementioned points combine to give Matthews a perfectly acceptable grade, especially combined with those occasional scoring deluges and impressive defensive stands.  Again...second year player.  As long as you see improvement, you're happy.  This is doubly so since Matthews evidenced a pattern of looking uncomfortable in new situations then settling in as he got used to them.  In another three years Wes will be used to everything.  If he never becomes a big moment guy, at least he can become that player who does everything right in a hundred little moments. It's perfectly possible that this season was just one step on the journey to becoming an indispensable part of the roster.  If Matthews' promise gets polished and his production becomes a little broader and steadier, the Blazers will have robbed the league.

In order for that to happen Matthews has to continue working on his drives and agility.  He'll also have to make every moment count on the court even when he's not scoring.  At times this season it looked like he lost defensive intensity when he started scoring.  He has to remember what got him here:  hard work and defensive chops.  If the Blazers wanted a young guy to just score from the wing they could have given Nicolas Batum free rein a year ago.  Instead they're insisting that their defenders actually defend en route to developing their offensive games.  Matthews needs to accept that challenge.

All of that said, the Blazers don't have another backcourt player with Matthews' combination of shooting, size, and defensive potential.  He's Portland's best shot at an all-around great guard right now and, short of getting someone who's great right now, the Blazers won't be eager to miss out on Wesley's further development.  He's earned a rotation spot and minutes with this team.  It remains to be seen what he'll do with them.

Season Grade:  B+

Stock Market Recommendation:  Buy.  It's as good of a risk as any on this team right now.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)