Milwaukee Bucks: Wesley Matthews stands as one of NBA’s greatest undrafted successes

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - DECEMBER 22: (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - DECEMBER 22: (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /

The career longevity of veteran Milwaukee Bucks wing Wesley Matthews has made him a model example for undrafted players to follow.

This week, the 2020 NBA Draft would have been held on its originally scheduled date under normal circumstances. Of course, this has been no normal year by any means.

The work of the Milwaukee Bucks, who currently hold the 20th overall pick, and 29 other NBA teams would have culminated in selecting 60 players, just as has been the case throughout the history of the NBA. But Wesley Matthews is here to point out that the process of getting drafted, or in his case not getting selected, isn’t the be-all and end-all.

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While Matthews has now just come to the Bucks a decade into his NBA career, Matthews’ entry into the NBA is rooted in Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin where he was a high school star at Madison Memorial.

From there, Matthews grew into a starring contributor at Marquette University where his scoring, toughness and versatility made him a valuable piece on some memorable Golden Eagle teams.

And it left quite the impression on then-Marquette coach Buzz Williams who said the following to Shannon Ryan of the Chicago Tribune in January of 2009:

"“He’s probably the most unselfish player I’ve been around,” coach Buzz Williams said. “He has allowed us to be in a lot games we probably shouldn’t be in because of our size deficiency.”"

As Matthews set his sights on entering the NBA, he was 23 years old, didn’t receive an invite to the NBA Draft Combine and some of the hallmarks of his game in the NBA, like his spot up shooting, wasn’t yet the polished weapon that it later became. That, along with questions of his lack of explosiveness and shot creation ability from scouts and NBA front offices, led to Matthews not hearing his name called on June 25, 2009.

It was quite the reversal for what Matthews had gone through previously in his basketball journey and the slight of not being drafted immediately lit a fire within the Madison native, as he recalled in detailing his draft night experience to Fred Katz of Bleacher Report in December of 2014:

"“I look at the phone and it was 11:40, something like that,” Matthews explains. “At that point I was like ‘It’s not gonna happen’. Grandma came up to me. ‘You’ve got ’til 12:01 to be mad about this, pissed off about this, feel cheated about it,’ and it was almost like on draft night, I was just like, really? Like, really? I gotta do this again? Alright, I’ve got ’til 12:01. I’mma be pissed. I’mma kick some stuff. I’m gonna throw some stuff over. I’m gonna turn some chairs over and then once 12:01 hits, it’s time to shock the world.”"

Milwaukee Bucks wing Wesley Matthews stands out as one of the NBA’s all-time great undrafted success stories.

Shock the world. Matthews ended up doing just that, though it didn’t come overnight. Appearances with both the Utah Jazz and the Sacramento Kings for Summer League stints followed Matthews’ draft night disappointment in the summer of 2009.

The Jazz eventually extended an invite for Matthews to join their preseason roster. As fate would have it, injuries to their pair of sharpshooters Kyle Korver and C.J. Miles not only necessitated Matthews to make the final roster, but to carve out a role within the team’s rotation at the start of the season as Matthews remembered to Sports Illustrated’s Rob Mahoney in February 2015:

"“My mentality at that point was to just make the team,” Matthews said. “Stay on the roster. Make sure I was still in the NBA. After I made the roster and I started playing in games, I wanted to just evolve. I’ve always done that. I’ve gotten better every single year that I’ve played basketball starting from grade school.”"

If there’s such a thing as an overnight undrafted success in the NBA, Matthews may just be that.

In the years since, Matthews has strengthened his foothold in the NBA by becoming one of the premier 3-and-D wings and most prolific 3-point shooters in NBA history as his 1,656 made triples rank 25th in NBA history, per That number obviously doubles as the most for an undrafted NBA player as well.

Along with that, Matthews has scored the fifth-most total points (10,366), compiled the fifth-highest amount of total minutes (25,108) and ranks 11th in win shares for players that have gone undrafted throughout the league’s history.

The Achilles injury that Matthews suffered midway through the 2014-15 season that ended up prematurely ending his time with the Portland Trail Blazers could have easily cut his NBA career short, just as going undrafted could have extinguished his NBA aspirations coming out of Marquette.

Yet, there’s Matthews, not only still in the NBA five years after suffering such a devastating injury, but playing a starting role on a Bucks team that currently stands atop of the league at 53-12. All while averaging 7.5 points per game, hitting 36.5 percent from three and playing on the league’s best defensive team by a wide margin.

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Throughout his NBA career, Matthews has embraced the ‘Iron Man’ moniker due to his toughness, high work ethic and perseverance to play through pain and adversity on a nightly basis. After all, that’s what it took for him to make it to the NBA in the first place.