When Wesley Matthews signed with the Mavericks, there were more questions surrounding him than maybe any other player on the roster. He was coming of a ruptured Achilles, an injury that occurred when there was pretty much just a month left in the regular season. How long would the rehab take? When would he return to the court? How effective would he be when he returned? How would the coaching staff manage him?
While these questions swirled, Matthews made the proclamation that he would be ready for the season opener. He one-upped himself and returned to the floor for the final preseason game.
For the regular season, Matthews started 78 games and led the team in minutes, averaging just under 34 minutes per game. He averaged 12.5 points per game on 38.8 percent shooting from the field, including 36 percent from beyond the arc. His free throw percentage of 86.3 percent was a career best and he averaged three rebounds per game and just fewer than two assists per game. He routinely matched up defensively with the top offensive threat from the other team.
It took Matthews a while to find his shooting touch -- this was the first time in his career his shooting percentage dipped under 41 percent. There were a lot of tough nights with some good nights mixed in as well, especially later in the season. His best night came in early December at Washington when he lit up the Wizards for 36 points and made 10 three-pointers in the game. On February 1st he became the second fastest active player to reach 1,000 career three-pointers, only behind Steph Curry. He had some signature defensive performances, such as holding Klay Thompson to just 10 points on December 30th when the Mavs gave the Warriors one of their nine losses on the season, or when he held Jimmy Butler to just four points on January 15th, one night after Butler scored a career-high 53 points.
Overall, the year was one of inconsistency for Matthews. At times he showed flashes of the player fans expected him to be, and other times he seemed frustrated as he worked his way back from the horrible injury. Regardless of his stats though, Matthews won over the locker room with his attitude and approach and got validation from Rick Carlisle, who said he "sets a culture tone" for the team and Mark Cuban, who said his leadership mirrored those of the dearly departed Tyson Chandler.
Ah, the contract of Wesley Matthews. The most talked about document in Dallas sports over the last year. Matthews will be entering the second year of a four-year, $70 million max contract he signed last summer.
Though the fact that Matthews is currently the lone "max player" on the Mavs roster draws the ire of many Mavs fans, it’s important to note that his contract only holds max value for the first year because the next three years will be played under the new salary cap, which is going to jump tremendously this summer.
This will be the first offseason since 2014 where Matthews can work on his game. Matthews said multiple times during the season that regardless of how much progress he made from his Achilles injury, only a full offseason will get him back to 100 percent.
Assuming he’s healthy, Matthews’ role will be to guard the opposing team’s best perimeter player and provide a decent 3-point threat. When he came to Dallas last summer, the intention was to pair him with Chandler Parsons and let that duo be the future of the team. With Parsons’ future still up in the air (Matthews said after the season that he needs to "bring his ass back to Dallas"), Matthews role is also in a bit of a limbo. Without Parsons, he may be asked to carry a heavier offensive burden. With Parsons as a primary offensive threat and Dirk still manning the power forward position (assuming he returns, as he recently opted out but indicated he will re-sign), Matthews will get to play a role he’s comfortable in, much like he did in Portland when Damian Lillard was the go-to offensive weapon and LaMarcus Aldridge was at power forward.
All year long, Cuban said the team signed Matthews, not with the first rehab-filled year in mind, but the next three. Well, the clock is officially ticking. The expectations for Matthews to produce at a high level will be there come October.
- My big feature on Wes's journey to recovery.
- Matthews' clutch defense that saved Game 2 in OKC.
- Early in the season, Tim Cato looked at Wes's work on defense as well.
- A late season scare that proved Matthews really is Ironman.
- Tim's piece on Wes's mid-season struggles.
- Danny Webster looks at Wes's early season leadership when the Mavs beat the Clippers at AAC.