Portland Loses More than Just Production without Wesley Matthews
*Photo via USA Today
Although the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday for their fifth straight win, they lost a key component to their playoff chances, when Wesley Matthews went down with a torn left Achilles tendon.
Matthews had been one of the Blazers’ most durable starters, playing in at least 66 games every season since his arrival in Portland in 2010, and earning the nickname “Ironman.” He was averaging 15.9 points, 2.3 assists, and 3.7 rebounds per game this year, and he ranked fourth in the NBA in three-point field goals made with 173.
Portland sits at third place in the Western Conference with a record of 41-19, so there is little doubt that they will make the playoffs. However, losing Matthews’ numbers could make it tough to win games down the stretch. If the Blazers lose several games, they could quickly fall a couple spots in the rankings, meaning a much more difficult matchup in the first round.
Matthews’ place in the lineup will likely be taken by Aaron Afflalo, who was acquired in a recent trade with the Denver Nuggets. In theory, Afflalo should be able to perform the same role as Matthews in the Blazers’ starting five, as a solid defender who can shoot spot-up three’s. On the other hand, that will significantly weaken a bench that has lacked depth all season. Now more than ever, Portland will have to rely on the scoring abilities of LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard if they hope to advance in the playoffs.
Still, the impact of losing Matthews for the remainder of the season is much larger than just his production on the court. He was undrafted out of college, and he is a prime example of how hard work always pays off. After the game on Thursday, Lillard told reporters that “Wes plays harder than anybody on our team,” and Aldridge added that “he’s the heart and soul of this team.” Nicholas Batum and Robin Lopez also took to Twitter to show their remorse for Matthews. It is clear that he is beloved by his teammates, and his work-ethic serves as motivation for all of them. Losing a guy like that will undoubtedly test the Blazers’ mental toughness.
Unfortunately for Matthews, he is in the final year of the five-year, $34 million contract he signed in 2010. For a player in the prime of his career who was set to cash in big this upcoming offseason, his value is likely to drop after such a devastating injury. Surgery to repair Matthews’ torn Achilles will reportedly be on Wednesday, and it will be a long road to recovery from there. But if anyone can come back strong from something like this, it’s Ironman.
-By Ryan Kelley