Wesley Matthews pickup is now more important for the Milwaukee Bucks

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - JANUARY 05 (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - JANUARY 05 (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images) /

I don’t know if you know this, but a common side-effect in making a trade is that you tend to have to give up something of value to acquire something of value, it’s a bit of an industry secret. When the Milwaukee Bucks dealt Donte DiVincenzo (and others) for Serge Ibaka, they were banking on a couple of things.

The first is that they’ll be able to fill DiVincenzo’s minutes on the wing via the buyout market. He wasn’t having a great season in his return from ankle surgery, so they could perhaps find a couple of wings that could replicate some of what he did.

The second is that they were relying on Grayson Allen and Pat Connaughton to continue their strong play this season. In their first game of the post-DiVincenzo era, not only did Connaughton struggle, but he suffered an injury that will keep him out for multiple weeks.

Until the Bucks add someone in the buyout market, which they have to do anyway to reach the minimum number of players on an active roster, they’ll be limited to one reserve wing player: Wesley Matthews.

Wesley Matthews needs to step up for the Milwaukee Bucks

Matthews’ acquisition was a bit of a surprise, especially when they waived rookie Georgios Kalaitzakis for him. Eventually, we found out that it was expected to happen all along and Matthews would only sign with the Bucks, turning down other offers to re-join his hometown team.

He got off to a hot start after coming back from COVID protocols to shoot over 47 percent on four attempts a night from 3 in his those 12 games and had a few huge moments late in games that re-endeared himself to a fan base that was skeptical of his return after he left for the Los Angeles Lakers to try to win a championship last offseason.

Of course, it was the Bucks that went on to win the title and Matthews’ Lakers were bounced in the first round while fans clamored for Lakers head coach Frank Vogel to play the veteran more.

In the following 12 games, Matthews has really struggled with his 3-point jumper. He’s taking fewer shots (2.7 per game) and only shooting 18.8 percent. It’s not as if he’s not playing, he’s still getting around 17 to 18 minutes a night but the shot hasn’t been there for him.

At the other end of the floor, Matthews has still been a good defensive presence and has shined when the Bucks have looked to switch more. Although, in their most recent game against the Phoenix Suns, the defending champs were exposed for their lack of size as the Suns routinely got switches that ended up with Deandre Ayton being guarded by a smaller player like Matthews and he was able to put them under the basket and get easy buckets.

He is, however, fouling the bejesus out of players with a 4.3 percent foul rate. That will need to be cleaned up, especially if he’s going to be seeing some extended minutes while Connaughton is out.

But how many minutes will Matthews get?

The entire active wing rotation consists of Khris Middleton, Grayson Allen, Matthews, and maybe Thanasis Antetokounmpo. Realistically, Thanasis won’t see minutes unless head coach Mike Budenholzer absolutely needs to, so we’re down to three bodies.

There should be a couple of interesting names on the buyout market and the Bucks have a couple more days off until their next game, so there may be reinforcements on the way. Still, that player or players will be relatively new and there will be an adjustment period.

Matthews will likely see around 20 to 23 minutes in the short term while Connaughton is out. He fits the similar mold of a smaller wing that can guard up a position and defend bigger wing players as well as smaller guards. It would also help if the Bucks either have George Hill back from his neck issue or acquire another guard that can play alongside Jrue Holiday to ease the minutes burden on the Bucks’ limited wing depth

The key to how effective Matthews is in those minutes, though, will be shooting.

He wasn’t as good as his 47 percent start, but he also isn’t as bad as the 19 percent stretch he’s in now. His season average of around 35 to 36 percent is hopefully what we can expect going forward, with hot and cold stretches mixed in. I mean, he’s a role player, that’s what happens.

While it seemed like a bit of an odd move at the time, Matthews’ importance cannot be overstated in the second half of the season at a time where the Bucks are very thin overall, but especially on the wing.

Next. Grading the Milwaukee Bucks’ trade deadline deal for Serge Ibaka. dark

Hopefully, they can bring someone in sooner rather than later to give Matthews & Co. some assistance while Connaughton is out.