Lowe: "... it’s time for something more than tiny incremental progress" from Batum and Matthews
By caseyholdahl Posted in: NicolasBatum, WesleyMatthews
Zach Lowe of SI.com (who is leaving SI soon to join the folks at Grantland
) put together his list of players who are "on notice" this season
for one reason or another. Lowe uses one bullet point to question whether Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews are ready to make the next jump in their careers.
Portland is paying more than $18 million combined to Batum and Matthews in each of the next two seasons, which is too much based on their respective records of NBA play — and enough to take Portland out of big-name free agency chases in each of the next two summers as things stand now (once you factor in likely team options and future picks). Both are solid role players, but neither has progressed much at creating offense with the ball — something that has left an enormous burden on LaMarcus Aldridge and could place one upon Damian Lillard immediately. Matthews’ shooting percentage on close shots fell off dramatically as he tried to go it alone more last season. Almost all available statistics paint Batum as a minus on defense despite his general look as a long-armed menace capable of guarding four positions, though the lineup jumbling Gerald Wallace’s acquisition and departure forced probably had something to do with those numbers. Regardless: If Portland wants to keep Aldridge happy, it’s time for something more than tiny incremental progress from these two.
Putting Aldridge's happiness on the shoulders of Batum and Matthews seems like a bit much, but there's no question that, if the Trail Blazers are to be more than a middling Western Conference team, both have to take that next step.