Wesley Matthews at peace in the post

Blazer works through shooting slump by going where few guards play

By Erik Gundersen, Columbian Trail Blazers Writer



February wasn’t a great month from the field for Wesley Matthews.

He struggled from the field, shooting 36.5 percent overall and 36.8 percent from three-point range. He also saw drops in rebounds and assists and the three-point shooting drought has carried over into the first four games of March.

However, he’s fresh off an efficient 26 points on 11-of-19 shooting, with a lot of success going to the basket and scoring in the post against the Mavericks on Friday.

The post-up game for Matthews has gone to another level this season and he’s also averaging a career-high in rebounds and still has a very good chance to have a career-high in three-point percentage.

If you ask Matthews, he says that his back to the basket game is nothing new.

“I’ve posted up since high school,” he said. “So, it’s always been something I could do. It’s just a matter of timing and repetition and opportunity.”

Matthews has slowly increased the presence of the post game in his offensive repertoire, something he has constantly worked on because he believes in it.

“I was bigger than most of the kids in high school. And in college it’s something that I’m comfortable with and it was something that I’ve been doing for four years. It’s something I always do when I train in the offseason.”

Matthews is one of the most efficient guards in the league when it comes to posting up, only trailing Miami’s Dwyane Wade, Detroit’s Rodney Stuckey and Orlando’s Arron Afflalo in points per possession on post-up plays, according to Synergy Sports Technology.

The post-up has become more rare in the NBA’s recent history as teams have become more analytically minded realizing that shots in the post overall aren’t that efficient compared to other shots.

“It’s funny,” said Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer, when asked about how there aren’t a lot of guards who post up these days. “When I first came in the league it was a big emphasis and a big part of the league. Some of the teams that were winning championships it seemed like Clyde Drexler, Penny Hardaway were posting up.”

This season Terry Stotts has given Matthews more opportunities to post up. He has nearly doubled the post-up possessions so far this season from last season and he’s been more efficient on the block.

Overall, Matthews has been more of a complete player this season. But if you ask him he’s always been that.

“I’ve always worked on everything and it’s just opportunities presenting itself and everything I’ve worked to do in this offseason throughout my life and career. It’s just starting to be recognized a little bit more now.”

Nicolas Batum says he’s become more confident this season with throwing the ball in the post to Matthews.

“The way he improved his post-up game this year is crazy. I’ve seen him working on it the last two years, even more than that. He’s gotten better at it,” Batum said.

“When I get a rebound I usually used to look at LA only but now if I’ve got Wes on the same side, I look to take advantage of match-ups. I trust him now.”

Matthews had his first real brush with injuries last season and he says that this year he has learned to rest more.

“I’m not killing myself on off days,” he said. “Monitoring my reps during practice, just getting what I need to mentally feel like I’m still in tune with everything.”

In the playoffs when match-ups and individual possessions become even more important, Matthews’ post-up game could be a valuable source of points.

“When a coach has an advantage or sees a guy that can do something, usually they figure it out and they are taking advantage of Matthews in the post,” said Budenholzer.