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NBA AM: Trail Blazers’ Matthews Driven By Slights

Wesley Matthews believes he should be All-Defensive team and touches on upcoming free agency

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Blazers’ Matthews believe he should garner All-Defensive team recognition

The Western Conference is absolutely stacked at shooting guard. Whether it’s James Harden, Klay Thompson, Kobe Bryant, Monta Ellis or Eric Bledsoe there’s hardly a night an opposing two guard can take off.

The Portland Trail Blazers (32-16) are currently fourth in the West and possess an eight game lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Northwest Division. One of the unheralded drivers of the team’s early success has been the play of shooting guard Wesley Matthews.

Matthews is averaging 16.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game on the season. But more importantly for Portland Matthews’ play on the defensive end has helped limit opposing shooting guards to 42 percent shooting from the floor and just 32 percent from beyond the arc.

The sixth year guard believes he should be prominently featured in any discussion for All-Defensive team honors at season’s end. However, Matthews readily acknowledges there’s a general lack of respect for what he does on that side of the floor without box score friendly defensive stat lines.

“Yes, but I probably won’t [be recognized],” Matthews told Basketball Insiders on whether he should be in the All-Defensive team discussion. “You know, that’s just how it goes. Some of it is just a popularity contest and some of it is putting up gaudy steals and blocks. I’m never going to be in that category because that’s not how we play defense here in Portland. We’re one of the last teams in the league in terms of turnovers created, but we’re still one of the best defensive teams in the NBA in terms of efficiency (Blazers rank fourth).

“So I think that kind of showcases who I am as a defender. Every night I’m going to show up and make it hard for someone [I’m guarding], but I ‘m not going to get all of the gaudy fast breaks, steals and stuff like that. But, I haven’t had accolades my whole life.”

The Blazers are a team with title aspirations this season, but looking forward the club has numerous decisions to make this summer from a financial standpoint.

All-Star forward and franchise cornerstone LaMarcus Aldridge is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and while he has publicly maintained he’s committed to the Blazers – anything can happen during the offseason.

Matthews is also set to become a free agent this summer. The guard, who is in the final year of his current deal, is on the books for $7.2 million this season and could be in for a solid earnings boost come July.

However, for now, Matthews says he would like to stay in Portland long term, but believes continuing to win at a high level is what will keep the Blazers’ nucleus together.

“I’m just approaching it day by day,” Matthews said regarding his approach to this summer. “I’m not looking ahead to free agency. I’m looking in the right now. I’m living in the now, just seeing what I have to do to get better and help this club continue to win.

“Free agency is going to take care of itself at the end of the day, but winning cures everything.”

Matthews leads the NBA in three-point field goals made (148) on the season. Entering Tuesday’s contest, versus Utah, the guard was tied with Atlanta’s Kyle Korver for supremacy.

Nuggets’ Brian Shaw gets vote of confidence from management

The Denver Nuggets reached the playoffs 10 consecutive seasons from 2004-2013 before having the impressive streak snapped last season. All signs point toward the Nuggets (19-30) missing the postseason, once again, for the second straight season for the first time since 2003.

At the helm of the ship for the past season and a half is Brian Shaw who has compiled a 55-75 overall record leading the Nuggets. The ride for Shaw in Denver has been far from smooth for the first time head coach and his tenure has been marred with inconsistent performances from his unit on the court.

Naturally this leads to speculation on how secure Shaw’s job security is at the moment.

Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly recently did his best to fan out the flames and gave his coach a vote of confidence.

“Brian has been dealt a very difficult hand, but we’re an organization that’s process-oriented, we don’t make emotional decisions,” Connelly told Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post.

The Nuggets have lost three straight and nine of their last 10 contests. But as the losses continue to mount, Shaw says he will continue to fight.

“At the end of the day, business is gonna go on, whether I’m the coach here or somebody else is coaching here,” Shaw told Nick Groke of the Denver Post. “Whoever it is, (the players) are going to still have a level of expectation in terms of giving an effort. Whether it’s me or somebody else, or if it’s the players we have or other players, there’s that expectation level.

“And all I can do is try to do my best, do my job to the best of my ability every single day. And I hope I get that back in turn. And it hasn’t seemed to happen that way. But I’m not hiding. Everything that I say to them, I say to you. And I get advised sometimes not to be so honest with you guys. But I don’t have anything to hide. I’m not running from anything.”

The Nuggets get a chance to turn things around over the next week with games against four teams at or below .500 on the season (Boston, Detroit, Oklahoma City and Los Angeles Lakers).

Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 10 seasons

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