Here is Wesley Matthews, ahead of his fifth season of basketball in a Portland Trail Blazers uniform.
After his rookie season with the Jazz, Matthews signed what many thought was an excessive deal at the time. Entering the final year of his deal, it looks like a bargain.
For the second straight season, Matthews dealt with an irregular heartbeat and dealt with it only the way he could, suggesting that maybe another career-year was in order.
When he was asked about whether he thought this could be his last season in a Blazers uniform with his contract coming off the books this summer, he was to the point.
And while the Blazers are out to prove to the rest of the league that their great 2013-14 season was not a fluke, Matthews, too, will have to state his case again.
“Every year is a contract year,” has been Wes’ mantra to any questions about his free agency. But if the last few seasons are an indication, Matthews could be even better this season.
Nicolas Batum said Matthews’ defense against James Harden, who shot 37 percent against Portland in the six-game series, was “unbelievable,” saying he was the “maybe the best defender in the NBA” during the series.
While Portland’s shooting guard isn’t focused on winning NBA honors like being selected to the All-Defensive team, he’s certainly not bashful about his place in the league.
“I’m never going to be the type that gets gaudy numbers to make an All-Defensive team,” said Matthews before getting to his case.
“Do I think I’m All-Defense? Absolutely. I think I’m the best two-way two-guard in the NBA. But I feel like we need to be a good defensive team within the scheme of the game. We’re not out there gambling, trying to reach and get steals. That would put us in a bind if I don’t get it,” Matthews said.
As far as Matthews’ case as the best two-way two-guard in the league, his case isn’t too difficult to see from where he’s standing coming off a career-best season in almost every way.
Either age and injury concerns (Kobe Bryant, Manu Ginobili, Dwyane Wade), on-court behavior (Lance Stephenson), or defensive focus issues (James Harden) are problems with many of the league’s leading two-guards. And, in looking at some numbers, you can see that Matthews stands out in some ways amongst the league’s best.
Ten players in the league have averaged over 14 points per game and shot 39 percent or better from the 3-point line over the last two seasons according to Basketball-Reference, which includes Matthews.
Among those 10, Matthews trails only Dirk Nowitzki, Carmelo Anthony, Stephen Curry, LeBron James and Kevin Durant in win-shares.
Only Golden State’s Klay Thompson played in more games than Matthews among the two guards on the list, which also includes Washington’s Bradley Beal and Minnesota’s Kevin Martin.
Matthews flashed a more developed post-game last season and improved his finishing as well as midrange shooting to go along with his steady 3-point shot.
If Portland can make meaningful strides as a team defensively and creep into the top-ten, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Matthews get more looks from voters.
But whether it’s votes for All-Defense or considerations for the topic du jour, like whether he and Damian Lillard are the league’s best backcourt, Matthews just wants to win.
“I think we’re up there. I don’t see why not. I definitely think we deserve to be in the talks of it. We probably won’t be, it’s cool.”
Matthews has always been cool with not getting noticed. And if the Blazers continue being one of the West’s top teams, it’s inevitable that he will get his due.