It's clear that the Portland Trail Blazers' offense runs through point guard Damian Lillard and forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Both are off to great starts this season, however, neither has been Portland's best player thus far.
That distinction belongs to Wesley Matthews.
He's been more efficient on offense, turns the ball over less and plays great defense. Sure, Lillard and Aldridge help create shots and driving lanes for Matthews, but Matthews' red-hot start to the season puts him at the forefront.
Matthews is off the charts offensively, which we'll get to later.
He's also no slouch on defense. He leads the team in steals with 1.14 per game. More importantly, he's playing great defense without fouling. At 1.7, Matthews has the lowest fouls per game average among the Blazers' starting five.
That allows Matthews to stay in the game and play productive minutes on offense.
Here's how he stacks up to Lillard and Aldridge in traditional stats:
Lillard and Aldridge both take the cake. They're the clear front-runners right?
Let's look at how Matthews' stacks up in shooting percentages:
"Wes is playing at a high level, particularly on the offensive end," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said via Mike Tokito of The Oregonian. "Guarding that position, generally, you’re chasing a lot of guys around, you’re expending a lot of energy, but he’s shooting the ball well."
If his three-point field goal percentage holds up, it'd be No. 5 all-time. This early in the season these numbers might be aberrations, but either way, they deserve recognition.
With those high shooting percentages, Matthews has made his shot attempt the best scoring option for Portland. For every Matthews' attempt, Portland averages 1.54 points, which is good for 8th in the NBA and 6th for those with more than 10 field goal attempts per game.
What about Lillard and Aldridge?
They rank 34th and 93rd, respectively.
Lillard and Aldridge both carry more weight on the offensive end. They are also the players for whom opposing teams likely prepare.
Sacramento Kings coach Michael Malone, however, took the flyer on Matthews after the Blazers' Nov. 9 win.
At 2:40 in this video from News10 Malone discusses his thoughts on Matthews after he torched the Kings for 21 points. All of which are shown here:
Matthews is making shots at a historical rate, he's playing great defense and he's taking care of the basketball. An average of just 1.4 turnovers per game is at least half a turnover lower than all Portland starters not named Robin Lopez.
There's a good chance that Lillard and/or Aldridge will be Portland's only All-Stars. There's a better chance that one will be considered Portland's best player at season's end.
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