The Los Angeles Lakers have officially signed Wesley Matthews, the team announced in a press release on Sunday. While the terms of the deal weren’t disclosed per the team’s policy, it’s been reported that Matthews’ deal is for the bi-annual exception, which is worth $3.6 million. Matthews’ contract is for one year.
The team gave more details on the signing in their press release:
Matthews played and started in 67 games for Milwaukee last season, averaging 7.4 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 24.4 minutes per game. In 10 playoff games, Matthews notched 7.2 points (.421 FG%) and 1.8 rebounds in 24.6 minutes.
An 11-year NBA veteran, Matthews has played in 791 games (729 starts) for Utah, Portland, Dallas, New York, Indiana and Milwaukee, and owns career averages of 13.1 points (.423 FG%, .381 3FG%), 3.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.0 steal in 31.9 minutes. Ranking 25th on the NBA’s all-time three-pointers list (1,663), Matthews has made more three-pointers than any undrafted player in NBA history.
Now that Matthews is officially part of the team, let’s dig into what he will bring to the defending NBA champions.
Corner 3s, please
Wesley Matthews shot 36.4% from 3-point range in the regular season, which is actually 0.3% worse than what Danny Green shot last season. However, the one area Matthews shot better than Green was from the corners.
According to NBA.com, Matthews converted 35 of the 83 corner 3-pointers he attempted last season. That’s a 42.3% clip. Comparatively, Green made 55 of the 138 corner 3-pointers he attempted; a 39.8% clip.
Green attempted 55 more 3-pointers from the corners than Matthews did, but that can be largely attributed to the fact that Green was teammates with LeBron James. Assuming Matthews has a similar role to the one he had with the Bucks last season, his 3-point attempts should go up from all over the floor.
The downside is that Matthews isn’t nearly as efficient from inside the 3-point line. Outside of the restricted area, Matthews made just 29.7% of the shots that he took inside the paint, which is considerably worse than what Green shot (48.6%). If you thought Green was limited offensively, wait until you see Matthews.
The good news is that the Lakers don’t need Matthews to be a go-to guy on offense. That’s especially true since they now have Dennis Schröder in the back court. They just need him to knock down 3-pointers and play defense, the latter of which he does really well.
Wesley Matthews is shorter than Danny Green by two inches, and about 15 pounds lighter, but he has a 6-foot-9 wingspan, which is only an inch shorter than Green’s wingspan. So, while he might appear to be less adept at defending wings than Green, he’s actually perfectly capable. That, above all else, is what makes him such a valuable piece to the team.
Yes, Matthews being a career 38.1% 3-point shooter makes him a more perfect Green replacement, but Green’s production on the defensive end was always going to be harder for the Lakers to replace than his production on offense. Because as disappointing as Green’s shooting percentages were, he still led the Lakers in defensive rating (101.8) in the NBA Finals, and he led the team in net rating in the playoffs (15.8). That’s no small thing.
Fortunately for the Lakers, Matthews had a similar impact on the Bucks last season.
In the 1,635 minutes Matthews played for the Bucks in the regular season, the Bucks posted a defensive rating of 98.3. With Matthews off of the floor, their defensive rating dropped to 104.1. The only player that posted a bigger on/off point differential on the defensive end was Giannis Antetokounmpo, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. That’s good.
Matthews’ two-way play is what is probably going to solidify his spot in the Lakers’ starting lineup next to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Schröder might be the better player, but Matthews allows them to play more similarly to how they played last season with Avery Bradley and Green in the regular season and Caldwell-Pope and Green in the postseason. Unless Alex Caruso takes a mega leap in the offseason, Matthews will likely be the starter.
Matthews could always fall short of expectations the same way Green did last year, but it would feel different because he will make a lot less than Green did last season. For the bi-annual exception, the Lakers couldn’t have found a better Green replacement than Matthews.