Perhaps the most low-key member of the Portland Trail Blazers' core five last year, Wesley Matthews was a key part of the team's impressive run.
He made a consistent effort defensively, was reliable with the ball in his hands and started all 93 games for Portland including the postseason.
He shot at the third-highest true shooting clip on the team. He connected on 39 percent of his threes, and the team was 3.6 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court—in fact, he's been a net negative just once in his career, which was in his rookie campaign with the Utah Jazz.
He held his shooting-guard counterparts to a 12.9 PER all year and received votes for this past year's NBA All-Defensive Team.
Jason Hortsch of Rip City Project recently discussed Matthews' quiet surge to the top of his position last season:
Recognizing that the ESPN positional assignments are somewhat kooky and Goran Dragic is actually a point guard, Gordon Hayward is actually a small forward, andTrevor Ariza (now in the West) is also a small forward, there are only five Western Conference shooting guards ahead of Matthews in PER – James Harden, Jamal Crawford, Monta Ellis, Kevin Martin, and Arron Afflalo (the jury is out on Kobe Bryantas he returns from injury).
Looking at this list, it is easy to see one of PER’s biggest weaknesses – properly valuing defense. The statistic is notorious for undervaluing defensive contributions (due to the difficulty of quantifying such measures), and this list cements this idea. I would take Matthews over any of these five players without question on the defensive end, which comprises a solid half the game of basketball.
When it is all said and done, Matthews stacks up incredibly favorably against the league’s other shooting guards. With the current glut of talent at other positions (such as point guard and small forward), Matthews represents one area in which the Blazers could often times walk into a game with an immediate advantage.
Matthews' all-around game has become increasingly solid over recent years, and his impressive output on the defensive end helps explain why his rise hasn't been very well-documented overall.