Wes Matthews' value to the Trail Blazers can be measured by his three-point shooting and tough defense, but they'll miss him most because of the way he fit with their other starters. Newcomer Arron Afflalo has a similar game to the now-injured Matthews, but he doesn't have the chemistry with Damian Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and coach Terry Stotts' system. There's something to be said for continuity -- the Blazers' ongoing success is proof it matters.
It's also a tough thing to measure. That's why this clip from Thursday's game is instructive.
The Blazers are running one of their most common sets out of the Flow offense. As one wing slices up to the top of the key, the other is supposed to loop from the opposite baseline to the left wing. That same player then dumps the ball into LaMarcus Aldridge, who goes to work on his man.
Looks simple, but the timing is everything. Matthews has played with the Blazers long enough to know how to time his cut and where Aldridge likes his post entry passes to go. It's second nature to him, so he's able to get to his spot quickly and immediately throw it inside. Afflalo just joined the team, so he doesn't have that know-how.
It shows on this play. Afflalo is late recognizing when he needs to start his cut and only moves when Lillard reminds him. That throws off the timing of the set. Compounding matters, Afflalo doesn't immediately throw the post entry pass to Aldridge because he's worried it'll get stolen. Aldridge is pushed out to near the three-point line and doesn't get the ball until there are four seconds left on the shot clock. There's not much he can do from there.
Afflalo just doesn't have the same experience with this core group as Matthews. It's not his fault, but this is a firm reminder that it's not enough for two players to have similar games. Matthews' value is highly contextual, and Afflalo must get up to speed quickly to fill his shoes.