Matthews is talked about quite a bit for his shooting abilities. Over the last two seasons, nobody has made more except Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. But a lot of fans might not appreciate the other parts of the game his shooting helps set up. Can you describe what he's able to do in the post, as a ballhandler, and on the defensive end that will make an impact?
In the Post: Matthews has developed this part of his game over the last two seasons. His footspeed isn't great but he's strong for a 2-guard. Getting his back to the basket is a nice alternative scoring path for him. He doesn't use the post much but he can certainly score there when called upon. He reportedly wants to be a bigger part of the offense. Taking advantage of smaller-framed or weaker shooting guards is an obvious avenue to make that happen.
Ballhandling: This is not Matthews' strength. If he's going in a straight line he's fine. Anything sideways is not good news for him. He's not the kind of guard you can hand the ball to facing up 22 feet out and expect an iso bucket from. He has a step-back three and that's about it. He needs to finish plays more than develop them.
Defense: People go back and forth about Wes because his lateral quickness isn't that sterling. He gets beat off the dribble sometimes, which looks bad. But he's smart, he's strong, and he's tenacious. He'll do well enough stopping the opposing shooting guard throughout the game, but when you really, really need a stop he'll shine. He's like a pit bull. He can sink his teeth into a dribbler and you can't pry him off. I've seen final possessions go comically wrong for opponents because Wes was on them. Three...four...five separate dribble moves and he's still there. Then comes the forced bad shot and your team wins. This doesn't happen every night. In fact you're more likely to see the "oops" side than the astonishing one on a given night. But when you need him, he's going to be there.
When the Mavericks drafted Justin Anderson, he said he models his game after guys like Thompson and Danny Green. How does Matthews compare to those players and do you think he'll be a good mentor for Anderson?
I'd say he was more of a catch-and-shoot, standstill guy. A huge percentage of his shots come from distance like Green. He's a good defender like Green. He's a bit bulkier though, more intimidating. I'd say Green was the closer parallel than Klay.
For mentoring, you couldn't ask for a more mentally tough, physically dedicated player...someone to push you. Matthews pushes everyone around him. He's not loud or dramatic in public but you just can't be around him or watch him work without understanding that he does things the way they're supposed to be done. Nothing is going to overcome this guy. If a young player can absorb some of that, he'll learn what it means to be a professional, not just a really good basketball player.
The comparisons to Monta Ellis will be inevitable this season. Monta is no longer on the Mavs largely because he was a poor fit with Chandler Parsons. How do you think Matthews' game will complement what Parsons does as a ballhandler?
No problems there. Wes is the anti-Monta. The later Ellis shoots the ball in the shot clock, the less his buckets are assisted. He's dribbling around, trying to find his shot. His assisted shot percentage ranges from 41 percent in the first 10 seconds of the clock down to 30-33 percent between 11-20 seconds. Six or seven out of every 10 times Monta scores, that's just Monta. Matthews' assisted shot percentages run 69-66-68 percent down through the clock ranges. He's moving without the ball, finding space, working off of other people. Six or seven out of every 10 times Wes scores, somebody set him up. The more people who can do that, the better he's going to look.
As long as we're comparing Matthews to Monta, what can you say about his presence in the locker room? Ellis' moodiness caused a lot of issues behind the scenes last year, so is it fair to say Matthews will be a breath of fresh air?
Yup. You'll have no worries unless you try to forget about him. Then he's going to barrel through like a semi-truck and make you play him. But he's going to do that on the court, not by sulking in the locker room. It's held true since his rookie year in Utah: you can't not play Wes. It just doesn't happen.
The most concerning thing about this signing is the Achilles tear that prematurely ended Matthews' season in March. The more optimistic Dallas fans have noted that Matthews' game was not heavily reliant on athleticism before the injury, so he hopefully wouldn't have a huge drop off in production. What do you make of those observations about his game pre-injury?
This is the big concern. It's also one nobody can predict.
I'd argue with the athleticism thing. You're correct that this isn't Derrick Rose juking free for swirling drives, but Wes needs lift, confidence, and leverage to do what he does, especially on the defensive end. His lateral movement already wasn't great. He can't afford to lose any more.
You've probably seen his latest recovery video. That's fine as far as it goes; he's in the middle of coming back from an injury, not ready for action yet. But if he can't generate more lift and "oomph" than that—a lot more—he's not going to be good for much more than standing still and hitting threes. He can do that, but that's only 40 percent of his game. The rest of his game makes him special; hitting threes as well makes him great. Without the special part, great will downshift to pretty good.
The other concern is that Matthews only knows how to do things one way: hard. He won't take games off. He won't take rehab slowly. He is going to push until he's where he wants to be. In a way that's great. But if he pushes himself into another setback—or if his body never makes it back fully and he just can't push as hard ever again—I don't think dialed-back Wesley is going to have the same effect. It'd be like taking a Metal Band and asking them to turn it down just a bit so they can play the Elks Club. They can do it, but it's not going to be the same.
* * *