Player Analysis by Amit Tailor – EC Matthews

Player Analysis by Amit Tailor – EC Matthews

This article was originally featured on Coach Tailor’s website: BasketballOutliers.Blogspot.com.

For those of you worried that I had a heavy west coast bias, fear not! Today’s topic is Rhode Island guard, EC Matthews. Unfortunately, all I have to go off of here is last year’s data and footage since he was injured this year, but EC Matthews is a heck of a prospect.  He is a critical part of the future there, at least next year. He’s drawn the attention of many NBA scouts, so let’s explore his game in a little more detail. A year ago, Matthews was one of the heaviest usage guys out there, playing almost 80% of available minutes for Danny Hurley. Further emphasizing his importance to his team were things like taking 31% of Rhode Island’s shots and getting to the free throw line at a whopping 42.9%! Fortunately for the Rams (and for EC) in his absence, Hassan Martin and Jared Terrell have been able to improve this season. A year ago, the Rams went 23-10 and played in the NIT. This year, they fell to 17-15.

While his shooting numbers don’t stand out a lot, his feel for the game certainly does. I have some trouble figuring out whether he is a point or not, but for now we’ll call him a scoring guard, and he’s a big one at 6’5″, 205 lbs. He’s certainly beefed himself up this season, up from 190 lbs as a freshman and sophomore. To go along with his already sound frame, he has a 6’7″ wingspan, which aids his defensive potential. I really can’t wait to see him make a return to the court next season, as he’s a ton of fun to watch.

Matthews is a sound scorer and just has a way of putting the ball in the basket. Though his Synergy numbers are low, this guy can really score. As a freshman, he dropped 14 points per game, and this increased to 16 as a sophomore.

Transition: Not a monster here, but I think he could turn into one. He’s shown the ability to take it coast to coast off rebounds or outlets, but a majority of his transition opportunities are results of him being led and set up on breaks. There are times where he will stay wide on the 3 point line, but to really help his team out, he needs to sprint to the corner when he doesn’t have the ball.

Pick and roll: One look at the shot chart and you’ll see a large concentration of shots near the rim. This made me think that Matthews was getting downhill a ton and not finishing, which is exactly the case. For as much as this guy is able to get downhill, the finishing needs to improve. It’s still impressive that he’s scoring by getting to the line as much as he does. He also has a tendency to reject ball side ball screens and straight line drive it to the rim. Another tendency is to shoot it out of the coverage, which is a tougher shot off the dribble. He has some feel in reading pick and rolls, seeing some splits along with the rejects.

One thing I will say is his 1 on 1 moves are pretty good, especially if matched onto smaller guards. Against bigger guys, he had the quickness to get by and attack downhill. Finishing against size and length was a different story.

Catch and shoot: Will keep this really short, but his catch and shoot shots are way better than him off the dribble. I think this one goes without saying. Don’t have any numbers to back this up for him, but hopefully you can trust me when I say this.

Defense: Pick and roll defense is a little harder to quantify properly. So much of this is personnel and team driven, and given that I don’t know Danny Hurley’s system, I’ll do the best I can here.

It seems like teams tried to put Matthews into several pick and rolls, maybe almost 1 per possession. To me this is screaming defensive liability, but let’s dig a little deeper here.

At 6’5″ with a 6’7″ wingspan, Matthews should be able to cover pick and rolls well, but a couple of red flags jump out at me. The first is that he often times runs right into the screen when trying to go over. If he can’t get over the top quick enough, he won’t always get back in the play.
Another is that I’ve never seen him ‘ice’  or ‘down’ on the side, so I’m not sure if that’s part of Hurley’s defense.

Sometimes the best thing to do with him is to put him on a non-shooting threat and let him go under as much as possible. This seems to be the way to hide him. If the situations are right and you have bigs that aren’t scoring threats, he may be able to switch 1-5 on them.

In off ball situations, he looks a little complacent, sometimes not even closing out to shooters. This is a no-no, especially with the improvement and increased value of rhythm, catch and shoot 3’s. I’m really hoping a commitment to defense is part of his regiment from now, because I really enjoy watching him play. A combination of poor closeouts, getting caught looking, and not contesting shots needs to be emphasized to him in order to get him to improve. Contesting shots makes a huge difference in shooting percentage. That’s probably a good place to start.

Areas for improvement:
Areas of improvement right away should be rebounding, shooting from distance, defense, especially on ball defense. Let’s start with rebounding. While he was doing a decent job for his position, 6’5″ guards with 6’7″ wingspans should be doing more rebounding. His career rebounding numbers are OK at 4.3 and 4.6 per game, but players in the A10 just aren’t as big or physical as him. I’m not sure what Danny Hurley’s take on offensive rebounding is, but 1 offensive rebound per game for that guy isn’t enough. I get that he’s usually going to be either under the rim or sprinting back on D once the ball goes up, but I believe he can get more than 1 offensive rebound per game.

Shooting from distance isn’t his forte either, which makes his scoring ability even more impressive. A look at his shot chart shows us just a 32% mark from 3, a slightly higher mark on 45 long 2 attempts, and just 52% at the rim on 162 attempts. So clearly, the areas of emphasis for him when he returns to workouts and practice should be layups and three’s (no, I’m not advocating this). Finishing at the rim is tough, but for a guy who gets to the rim as frequently as he does, he needs to convert more. Where he is impressive, however, is in his ability to get to the free throw line. If you thought the 42.9% free throw rate as a sophomore was impressive, just know it was consistent too. As a freshman, playing behind the ultra talented Xavier Munford, he still posted a 42.4% free throw rate. In the same number of games and similar minutes both years, he increased his scoring by nearly 100 points as a sophomore.

One thing I am a little disappointed by is his individual turnover rate. As a freshman it was already pretty high at 18.3%, but this increased to 22.3% as a sophomore. Coupled with a career assist/turnover ratio of 0.72, this is certainly another area for improvement.

Matthews was just OK as a defender, but given his size, length, and athleticism, he can be a monster and guard 3 or 4 positions in college. If he is to play in the NBA at some point, he needs to be able to guard 1’s and 2’s for sure, and maybe even some 3’s.

Strengths:
– Size and length
– Scoring
– Getting to the free throw line
– Positional size
– Catch and shoot
– Downhill attacker

Weaknesses:
– Not a point guard
– Shooting consistency, especially from 3
– Finishing at the rim
– Defense, in general (see film)
– Tenacity

As always, see the shot chart below, and film to accompany! Enjoy!

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