Just how much do the Blazers miss Wesley Matthews?


As the Portland Trail Blazers have limped through their first round matchup against the Memphis Grizzlies, it is more apparent than ever how much they miss a certain Wesley Matthews. At face value, that comes as no surprise – he was a valuable starter, so of course the Blazers were going to miss him.

If the Blazers’ tame performance thus far against the Grizzlies in the playoffs hasn’t been a enough of a sign on the surface, it gets worse the more you dig into the numbers. Matthews knew his role, and played it to perfection. People these days love to talk about “3-and-D” players, and while Matthews certainly fits that bill, he is so much more.

He didn’t just shoot threes, he shot them prolifically. He would guard the opponent’s best perimeter player night in and night out. And, if the Blazers needed a set play to turn to for some instant offense, he could be deadly when working from the low post.

Often times we try to view players in a vacuum, but to me Matthews represented the best of a player whose talents were both maximized by the system, as well as maximized the potential of the system itself.

Nov 28, 2014; Portland, OR, USA; Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) looks to pass the ball on Portland Trail Blazers guard Wesley Matthews (2) during the fourth quarter of the game at the Moda Center at the Rose Quarter. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

The loss of Matthews is unsurprisingly most apparent on the defensive side, where his absence has been sorely felt. In the playoffs thus far, the Blazers have allowed the Grizzlies to score 58, 50, 62, and 48 points in each first half (an average of 54.5).

To turn our attention toward the regular season, consider that in the 60 games that Matthews played before the Achilles injury, the Blazers had a defensive rating of 99.3. If the Blazers had kept that rating through the entire season, they would have finished the season ranked tied for second in defense.

After Matthews went down for good, in their remaining 22 games, the Blazers had a defensive rating of 107.0. This is abysmal. To illustrate how awful that is, over the entire season, that would have ranked the Blazers fourth worst in the entire league.

While there are always a multitude of factors to consider, it’s not hard to connect the dots that when Matthews was playing, the Blazers were equivalent to a top-two defense, and as soon as he was injured, they plummeted to the equivalent of a bottom-four defense.

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Beyond the nitty-gritty stats, the big picture presents a similar scenario. With Matthews in the lineup, the Blazers’ record was 41-19, for a 68.3% win percentage. Once he was injured, the Blazers finished the season 10-12, a winning percentage of just 45.5%. While the Western Conference was crazy enough that it is impossible to tell how seeding would have shaken out, it’s reasonable to assume that the Blazers may have been able to snag a higher seed if Matthews had remained healthy.

Unfortunately, this is all a moot point. Matthews got hurt, and there is no changing that. It would have been amazing to be able to see the complete team compete in the playoffs, but that isn’t the case. The Blazers have to work with what they have, and hopefully they can parlay their success last night into extending the series even further.

What will be even more interesting is seeing how the Blazers’ struggles without Matthews affect his upcoming contract discussions. The Blazers very obviously missed Matthews, and you can bet this will be on their minds as they figure out how to negotiate with a player coming off an Achilles repair.

Next: Injured Mike Conley buys tickets for Grizzlies fans