In a piece published last week by Erik Gundersen of The Columbian, Trail Blazers shooting guard Wesley Matthews was quoted as saying "I'm the best two-way two-guard in the NBA." This is a pretty bold statement from a player that generally embraces the underdog role.
Today a panel of Blazer's Edge writers discusses whether or not Wesley Matthews really is the best two-way shooting guard in the league.
Sam Tongue | @SamTongue
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that it'll be a consensus "NO!" when it comes to our answers on this thread. When you have guys like Klay Thompson, DeMar DeRozan, D-Wade, James Harden, or even Kobe Bryant, it's tough to vote for Matthews.
What I will say, though, is that this discussion has an interesting wrinkle. The real reason that Matthews is even in the conversation is because of how thin the league is at the shooting guard position. Even more than that, having true "two-way" shooting guards is a crap shoot: Wade, Harden, and Bryant aren't exactly doing much on the defensive end of the floor these days. Matthews showed in the playoffs that, when in the spotlight, he can be a lock down defender against some terrific offensive players.
I can't say Matthews is the best two-way player in the league, but I honestly don't think he's totally out of the conversation. The biggest factor he has going for him is his play on the defensive end, but by those standards guys like Tony Allen should also be up for consideration. What probably eliminates him is his lack of isolation/penetration play; Matthews is a spot-up, three-point shooter, not a bail-you-out-at-the-end-of-the-shot-clock guy. If he had that ability, I don't think you could scoff at the idea of putting him at or near the top.
If I had to choose a true two-way player, I'm probably going Klay Thompson (I'm surprising myself as I write this). No, he doesn't have the same ability off the dribble as guys like Harden or even his running mate Stephen Curry, but the fact that he plays an ounce of defense already puts him in the top tier. The other guys give up too much on the other end. You might be able to put Lance Stephenson in this spot after the season, though.
Evans Clinchy | @evansclinchy
No, absolutely not. Sorry, Wes, love you. But the No. 1 best in the NBA at your position? No. Not close. Not close to being close.
Who's better? Well, a lot of guys. Andre Iguodala unless we're counting him as a three; Goran Dragic unless you think he's a one. Manu Ginobili and Vince Carter unless playing a lot of minutes is a prerequisite. Kyle Korver, definitely -- he's a very underrated defender and obviously a lights-out shooter from everywhere. Then there's Kobe Bryant, there's Dwyane Wade, there's Klay Thompson, and... well...
OK, I'll say it. I think James Harden's better.
It pains me to do this. I love Matthews and hate Harden. Watching the latter play is excruciating. His style of play consists mostly of hogging the ball, driving nowhere in particular, and flailing. What's the opposite of can't-miss TV? Can't-watch TV? Harden is that. And the defense. Oh, the defense.
But Harden is just so, so productive on the offensive end. The shooting from the field is so efficient, not to mention he made more free throws last season than anyone not named Kevin Durant. The defense is atrocious, yes, but you can hide his weaknesses if you have a good wing guy and a good big to clean up the mess. (Houston has both.) I hate saying this, because I know Wes is gunning for Harden when he makes comments like this, and I'm rooting for him to take the little twerp down, but he's not the superior player. I'm sorry. Really, I am.
Scott Horlbeck | @scott_horlbeck
Is Dana Brody a good TV character?
Is Five Guys better than In-N-Out?
No. (Hell no)
Is Wesley Matthews the best two-way shooting guard in the league?
So who is better two-way shooting guard than Wes?
- James Harden: I know, I know, bet he actually showed some defensive improvements in the FIBA World Cup.
- Dwyane Wade: Maybe he can't play an 82 game schedule anymore, but he's still better on both ends when he's actually on the floor.
- Klay Thompson: Best shooting two-guard in the league, probably a top five defending two-guard in the league
- Bradley Beal: Took a mini-leap in the Chicago series, showed he can play with anyone
- DeMar DeRozan: 2014 All-Star, averaged 22-4-4, underrated defender
- Joe Johnson: Too much offensively, just enough defensively
- Lance Stephenson: Head case, but competes every night, can obviously score, but is also a sneaky good on-ball defender with very quick hands
- Arron Afflalo: According to 82games.com, held opposing shooting guards to a PER ranking of 15.7, which, considering what was around him in Orlando last year, is fairly impressive
- Giannis Antetokounmpo: Just kidding, the freak is too good for positions
You could make the argument:
- Jimmy Butler: Elite defender, can be challenged offensively
- Monta Ellis: His size hurts him, but an explosive scorer who's showed the ability to improve his decision making since landing in Dallas, defense still needs work
- Victor Oladipo: After the season he's about to have, this could be a real argument
- Kyle Korver: Top 3 shooter, great size, defense is questionable
*I'm leaving Kobe Bryant off because who the hell knows with him...
Wesley Matthews is my favorite player. I love the "Every year's a contract year" attitude. His "You can't quit if you're playing for somebody else" perspective (in reference to his mother). The fact that he continues to improve after I thought he hit his ceiling like three years ago. The countless floor burns, physical D, and how he revels in going against the best in the game.
Even with all that, I just can't do it.
The best I can do is agree with what he said right after that statement -- that he's supposed to feel that way. I could also agree that if I can't have one of the elite shooting guards in the game, he's the one I want taking that match-up and proving the gap is a lot smaller than everyone thought. And I could agree that he validated that last statement by straight-up outplaying James Harden during last year's playoffs.
I know I'm supposed to list the players ahead of him but, frankly, I just don't want to. Feels somehow too objective and I'm sure everyone else will cover all their names for me. Maybe I'm not supposed to feel that way now that I'm writing but he's number one in my personal, Blazer fan boy book and will stay there until he's traded or retires. Long live Ironman and if those irregular heartbeats get more serious I promise to quit writing and devote all my time to inventing an arc reactor.
Timmay! | @BedgeTimmay
Hey, whatever Wesley needs to tell himself to inspire his best performance on the court, more power to him. Kick some rear this season, Wes.
Ryan A Chase
There is no denying that Wesley is one of the best defensive shooting guards in the NBA. He locks down a player for 48 minutes every night, and consistently leads the team in defensive WAR.
That said, he is not the best two-way shooting guard. He just is not enough of an impact player on offense, and the best offensive players at shooting guard in the NBA are not so bad on defense that it evens the field.
Among the two-way shooting guards better than Matthews are James Harden, Kevin Martin, Monta Ellis and Goran Dragic, with Bradley Beal and Gordon Hayward getting to that level.
The issue is that Matthews specializes as a three-point shooter, and when his outside shooting is not on, he is an offensive liability. At his absolute best, he can give you 22 or 24 points. Compare to Ellis or Harden, who can give you 35-40 when they are completely on.
Chris Lucia @ChrisLucia_BE
Wesley Matthews is a fan-favorite in Rip City, and for good reason; He never takes a play off, competes hard on both ends of the floor and has an unrivaled work ethic. Matthews' story of going undrafted in 2009, earning a spot on the Utah Jazz roster and eventually going on to become the highest-paid second-year player in NBA history is downright inspiring.
That's why it hurts to type this: Matthews is not the best two-way shooting guard in the NBA.
Qualifying the debate by considering both offense and defense does help Matthews out, though, because he can be a defensive force on the wings and a nightmare for the opposition -- just ask James Harden.
That said, Klay Thompson, Lance Stephenson and Jimmy Butler -- both these last two guys will probably play both wing positions this year, but still -- are better two-way shooting guards. Harden, DeMar DeRozan, Monta Ellis, Manu Ginobili, Dwyane Wade, Aaron Afflalo, Kobe Bryant and possibly Bradley Beal and Joe Johnson are all good enough offensively to make up for their defensive deficiencies due to injuries, age or effort and put them in the conversation of best shooting guards in the NBA.
Truth is, there's a dearth of true, top-level talent at the off-guard position right now in the NBA. Matthews isn't the best of the bunch, but he's in the conversation among the second-tier of shooting guards and quite honestly, he's a great fit playing next to Lillard in Portland's backcourt and does deserve plenty of credit for his efforts on both ends.
Sagar Trika | @BlazersBySagar
I'm going to try to answer this question without any of my biases showing.
I love Wes. I love his demeanor on the court. I love that he embraces the underdog position and makes the best of it. I love his tenacious defense. I love his ability to spark the team whenever the team needs to be sparked (see: November 23, 2013 at Golden State -- he gets ejected, which sparks a Blazers 14-point comeback and win). I love his emotion and love for the game. I love his hustle.
As much as I love Wesley, I have to disagree with him. Is he one of the top two-way shooting guards? Probably, but he isn't the best.
I'm not going to just say James Harden is the better two-way shooting guard (see: defense), because I don't think he is. The argument, however, can be made for players like Klay Thompson (who I do think is the best). Those players, while not on the same level as Matthews defensively, are superior offensively. In the end, the game is about who puts more basketballs in the hoop, and other players do that better than Wes.
I will say that I like the confidence coming from him. I hope that confidence is contagious and spreads throughout the locker room, because believe it or not, that's all it takes for a team to change the landscape of the conference.
Do you think Matthews is the best two-way two-guard in the league or do you think other players are better? Sound off in the comments.