In the 11 years that Wesley Matthews has been in the NBA, he’s made a living knocking down 3-pointers and playing stout defense on the perimeter. Those same qualities made him the perfect replacement for Danny Green, who the Los Angeles Lakers traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Dennis Schröder in November.
Unfortunately, Matthews didn’t have much success doing either one of the things he’s become known for in his first four appearances with the Lakers, during which he attempted eight total 3-point attempts and didn’t make a single one. Green’s time in Los Angeles was far from perfect, but he nearly had as many makes in his first game (7) as Matthews had attempts through his first four.
Matthews also posted the second-worst defensive rating (113.6) on the team during his first four games with the Lakers. The only player with a worse defensive rating than Matthews? Anthony Davis, who posted a defensive rating of 118.0 in three games.
Obviously, those metrics will shift as the season goes and players settle it, and it seems they’ve already started to. In the three games the Lakers have played since, Matthews has made 11 of the 15 3-pointers he’s attempted. On Wednesday against the Portland Trail Blazers, Matthews went a perfect 6-of-6 from 3-point range.
As Matthews’ offensive production has improved, so has his defensive production, and that’s not a coincidence. After the Lakers’ win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday, in which Matthews scored 14 points off of the bench, Matthews said that his turnaround on offense started with an improved understanding of his role on defense.
“I’m just getting more comfortable,” Matthews said. “I think, for me, it’s going to be an ongoing thing. It’s a new situation and you guys have heard the story: a shortened season and a shortened offseason. But, for me, it all starts on the defensive end. My comfort comes from the defensive end and that’s what engages me and kind of unlocks my full game.
“I’m getting more and more comfortable in our defensive schemes and finding my spots on the offensive end. Obviously, LeBron helps everything, AD helps everything, but we have a bunch of guys that can create and I’m finding the opens spots and knocking them down,”
There’s still some things that Matthews needs to figure out on both ends of the floor, and he even said so himself, but what he’s shown in the last couple of games is really encouraging. And if there are nights where he does struggle, at least no one can point to the fact that he’s making $15 million annually. Danny Green didn’t have that luxury.