There was some mixed reaction among the fanbase when the Milwaukee Bucks announced that they were bringing back Wesley Matthews. This included some fans who were more than happy to welcome back the Wisconsin native for his second stint with the Bucks, while others were still displeased about his surprising exit from the team after the 2019-20 season. Whichever end of the spectrum fans landed on, everyone was curious to see how Matthews would fit in. Right now, the fit looks seamless after seven games.
Wesley Matthews has been great for the Milwaukee Bucks this season
If one solely looked at Matthews’ contributions statistically, they likely would not be impressed as the veteran is averaging six points,1.4 rebounds, and 0.4 assists in a career-low 15.8 minutes per game. Yet, the Bucks did not sign Matthews for him to stuff the stat sheet every night, although it would be a nice boost. They brought him aboard to be a quality veteran rotation player that could add some toughness, experience, defense, and shooting, which have all been on full display early.
Defensively, Matthews has been a welcoming addition for coach Mike Budenholzer. The 6-foot-4 swingman has given Budenholzer another versatile defender to utilize off the bench, which makes them all the more formidable on that side of the ball in lineups with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday, among others. Matthews has shown he is never afraid to sacrifice his body by taking a charge or diving head-first at a loose ball, bringing some energy off the bench. Having someone that is not afraid to do the dirty work with hustle plays and is also willing to defend top-tier stars will be a luxury for the Bucks moving forward. According to NBA.com/stats, he is currently holding opposing players to just 37.1 percent shooting from the floor as the main defender. Talk about making an impact.
On the other side of things, Matthews has been an interesting player thus far. No one expected a prominent role in the offense to be in store for the newcomer, but he has already hit more than a few big shots since touching down in Milwaukee. Of course, Matthews recently helped propel the shorthanded Bucks to a victory over the Houston Rockets by scoring 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the floor, including 4-of-5 from deep.
In the Bucks’ eventful Christmas Day matchup against the Boston Celtics, Matthews found himself in the closing lineup, which worked out incredibly well in the end as he sunk a clutch 3-pointer to give them their first lead of the game with just a tick over 30 seconds left to play. He finished with nine points on 3-of-4 shooting in the win. While his significant 3-pointer will garner most of the praise, a big reason why the Bucks were even in that position to begin was that Budenholzer started having his players switch defensively in those final few minutes. Someone like Matthews being out on the floor in that situation is a big advantage, and it showed yesterday as the Bucks surrendered just five points over the final five minutes after he checked in.
Matthews has done all of this on a non-guaranteed deal for the Bucks. That contract made this a low-risk, high-reward scenario situation from the very beginning, and it has been the latter to this point. If Matthews keeps playing like this, the team will be forced to guarantee his deal and keep him around in his home state. He has already become a key cog in the rotation as he logged time in the Christmas Day game rotation over three regulars in Jordan Nwora, Semi Ojeleye, and Rodney Hood. Whether it be because of their previous time with the Bucks or Matthews’ ability to help on both ends of the ball, Budenholzer trusts the veteran, and it has shown thus far.
The 35-year-old’s second stint with the Bucks has been an emotional one throughout the first few games as his grandmother recently passed away. Matthews told reporters after yesterday’s game that she was supposed to be in attendance for the contest, which would have been her first time seeing him in person since the pandemic started. He is playing with a heavy heart whenever he is on the floor, playing for her every moment.
Welcome back, Wes.