Wesley Matthews has been subject of much criticism this offseason. Mainly centered around streaky shooting and an inflated contracted, Matthews has certainly been under the microscope. In his second season in Dallas, he averaged 13.5 points, four rebounds and three assists, which were improvements from last season. But Matthews true impact on this team has always been on the defensive end of the floor, and he made his presence known throughout last season.
This season, Matthews role should be much of the same, but he will be playing with a new running mate in the backcourt. How that affects him is yet to be seen, but as Matthews has shown year after year, Dallas should expect timely shooting and grit-and-grind defense this season.
As Matthews enters the third year of his four-year deal, the biggest question facing him is if he can live up to his contract. Set to make $17.8 million, Matthews is by far the second-highest paid Maverick this season. The past two seasons in Dallas, he has been right on par with his career averages. He shot 39 percent from the field and 36 percent from deep. Considering Matthews is making similar money to Klay Thompson and slightly less than Jimmy Butler, it’s hard to justify paying him that type of money.
But the NBA is a funny league, and when the market explodes like it did a few summers back, owners throw money at players. In today’s NBA, Evan Turner, Evan Fournier and Kent Bazemore all make $17 million, which puts things into perspective. For further context, Matthews is set to be the 53rd highest paid player and the 22nd highest paid guard, according to HoopsHype.
The problem with Matthews is his fit with this Mavericks team. At 30 years old, with a repaired Achilles, his trajectory doesn’t fit with the trajectories of Harrison Barnes, Nelens Noel and Dennis Smith Jr., who are 25, 23 and 19 years old respectively. Can Matthews’ veteran experience help bridge the gap from one Mavericks era to the next? The front office would say yes, but how much should veteran savvy cost?
Matthews has increased his averages almost across the board, each year he’s been in Dallas. He’s scored more, shot better, rebounded and created better. The best-case scenario is that he continue to improve as he gets a second healthy offseason under his belt. It would be surprising for Matthews to score more than his career average of 13 points per game, but ideally, he would become a more efficient scorer. If all goes well, he should shoot north of 40 percent from inside the arc and around 38 percent from three.
Playing with a dynamic point guard in Smith Jr. should greatly benefit Matthews on offense. Look for him to attempt more catch-and-shoot threes playing with a point guard who can penetrate and break down defenses. In Matthews’ last season full season in Portland, he shot 425 catch-and-shoot threes, making 41 percent of them. Last season he attempted 356 catch-and-shoot threes, making 38 percent of them.
Overall, it will be a successful season if Matthews becomes a more efficient offensive player and continues his hard-nosed defense.
On the flip side, Matthews is likely on the downhill turn of his prime. At 30, he still has plenty left in the tank, but Achilles injuries eventually take their toll, even though he has absolutely done what he can to prolong the best years of his career. The worst-case scenario would be for his shooting percentages to dip and his per-game averages to decrease.
Matthews is arguably in the best situation he’s been in as a Maverick, with the two main differences being a dynamic backcourt partner and a defensive anchor in the paint. Given that he’ll likely being asked to do less on offense, it would be a major disappointment to see him take a step back after taking two steps forward the past two seasons.
Barring a trade, Matthews will be in Dallas this season and next, and that is certainly not a bad thing. The roster is constructed to allow him to continue be the 3-and-D specialist he’s been for the majority of his career. The time is now for Matthews, and look for him to continue to build off his improvements.