Wesley Matthews isn’t going to beg the NBA to be one of the six players selected for this year’s Foot Locker Three-Point Contest at the 2014 NBA All-Star Weekend in New Orleans. In fact, he’s not even going to ask.
But that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t accept an invitation. Actually, quite the opposite. Matthews, who is currently fifth in three-pointers made this season with 96, would very much like an opportunity to compete in the three-point contest on Feb. 15.
“It would be an honor to represent my family, friends, Portland,” said Matthews. “But in the meantime, all I’m worried about is helping my team win as many games as I can up until that point.”
One of the reasons the Trail Blazers have been able to win so many games this season is because of Matthews’ three-point shooting. Though he’s cooled off considerably since shooting a ridiculous 52 percent from three in the month of November, Matthews is shooting 42 percent from beyond the arc this season, good enough for 16th in the NBA and better than the likes of Paul George, Kyrie Irving, Matt Bonner, Ryan Anderson and Stephen Curry, all of whom competed in the three-point shootout last season.
Even factoring in regression, Matthews is still one of the best three-point shooters this season by most any metric.
“That’s not for me to say, not for me to judge,” said Matthews when asked if he deserves to compete in this year’s contest. “I’m not really the type to advertise myself, but if the play speaks for itself, then that’s fine. If not, that’s fine, too.”
He’s shooting above the league average in four of the five three-point “zones” (as seen in the shot chart above) and has been one the best shooters from the corners this season at 43 percent from the right corner and a blistering 47 percent from the left corner. He’s second in the NBA in corner threes made with 39 and tenth in corner three percentage at 45 percent (minimum 20 corner threes made).
Kirk Goldsberry of Grantland.com, has gone so far as to say that Matthews is “arguably the best shooter in the league this year” from the left corner, and since two of the five shooting stations in the three-point contest are in the corners, one could argue that Matthews’ game is better equipped for the contest than players who shoot from the top of the key or “above the break” (though Matthews shoots a very respectable 40 percent from “above the break as well).
“I think the main thing they’ve got to do well is to make shots,” said Matthews, stating the obvious when asked what make a good three-point contest shooter. “I don’t know how my mechanics stack up. I’ve never been in a three-point contest before. I know I can get my shot off quick, I know I can make shots so I think I’d do alright.”
And since All-Star Weekend is as much about the spectacle as anything else, Matthews says he’d be willing to do what he could to add some intrigue to a contest that doesn’t afford itself to free-styling.
“If I got it going, when I got to the last rack, I think I’d do a stepback,” said Matthews That’s something I would do, just for the hell of it.”
He’s shooting 60 percent on stepback three-pointers this season, so it might not be such a bad idea anyway.
Considering that Portland is first in three-pointer made per game, basically tied with San Antonio for first in team three-point percentage, and second per game in attempts, it’s only fair that at a Trail Blazer be one of the three representatives from the Western Conference in the three-point contest, especially considering their 28-9 record.
“I’d love for either (Matthews) or Damian (Lillard) to be in the three-point shooting contest,” said Terry Stotts, who would be the head coach of the Western Conference All-Star team if the decision were made today. “Our backcourt, both are in the top five in threes made. I think both guys are deserving to be in the three-point shooting contest.”
Lillard, who is first in the NBA in three-pointers made with 120 and seventh in three-point percentage at 44 percent, would certainly be a worthy entry. But he’s already scheduled to play in the Rookie/Sophomore game, has to defend his Taco Bells Skills Challenge crown and could very well end up being selected by NBA head coaches for the Western Conference All-Star roster. Throwing yet another event into that already packed schedule seems like a recipe for a poor showing.
Given that, it stands to reason that Matthews should have the honor of representing his family, friends and Portland in this year’s three-point shooting, even if he won’t campaign on his own behalf.