When the Los Angeles Lakers signed Wesley Matthews with their bi-annual exception in free agency, the overwhelming expectation was that he was going to fill the 3-and-D hole on the roster that was created when they traded Danny Green and the No. 28 pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Dennis Schröder. Unfortunately, through 66 games, that hasn’t been the case.
Not only has Matthews shot a career-low 32.6% from 3-point range and posted a subpar defensive rating, but his role with the team has been sporadic. In fact, before LeBron James suffered his high ankle sprain, Matthews was out of the rotation entirely because of the emergence of Talen Horton-Tucker.
James is expected to return next week and Schröder is expected to return shortly after that, but Matthews will still have a role with the team, particularly when the postseason starts, according to Frank Vogel.
“Any matchup in the playoffs where they have elite perimeter players, Wes Matthews is likely going to be a factor in that series,” Vogel said. “He’s an exceptional perimeter defender and brings a toughness to our team and I think you saw that tonight with the way he competed and used his voice leading our group.
“He’s a tough dude, man. We’re lucky to have him and he’s certainly going to be a factor in matchups like this, yes.”
That might not sound like the best idea because of how Matthews has played for most of this season, but there’s hope that, with a consistent role and the right players around him, he’ll look as good as he did last season, when he shot 39.5% in the postseason and held his own against Jimmy Butler. Even if he’s not much better than he is now, he’s still a better option on defense than Horton-Tucker or Ben McLemore.
Matthews came to the Lakers to try and win a championship and if he’s going to accomplish that with his team, he needs to be at his best on both ends of the floor.