Milwaukee Bucks need more from Wesley Matthews post All-Star break

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - DECEMBER 25 (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - DECEMBER 25 (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images) /

By all accounts, Wesley Matthews has been a great story for the Milwaukee Bucks this season. After going unsigned in free agency, the veteran reportedly only wanted to play for the Bucks as he aimed to get back into the association. His wish was granted in early December after signing a non-guaranteed deal with the champs, being given the opportunity to prove himself.

The two-guard certainly appeared motivated to be back in his home state, as had a December to remember. In nine games, Matthews averaged 6.2 points while shooting 20-of-38 (52.6 percent) from the floor and 13-of-27 (48.1 percent) from 3-point range in 16.5 minutes per game. One of those 3-pointers was a memorable clutch bucket against the Boston Celtics on Christmas that ultimately helped seal a win for Milwaukee, which has been the biggest highlight of Matthews’ season thus far.

After an impressive December, it was not surprising to see Matthews get his contract guaranteed by the Bucks in early January. Given how well he played with the Bucks, it was the right decision to make, but after that red-hot December, Matthews has flat-out hit the wall lately, which has been problematic for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Examining Wesley Matthews’ troublesome struggles in January and February for the Milwaukee Bucks

After proving that he could still be a quality rotational player and getting his contract guaranteed, Matthews was bound to see more playing time with the Bucks. Indeed, his minutes went up from 16.5 in December to 22.5 on average in January. Yet, while the minutes increased, his production decreased mightily. In 14 games throughout the month, Matthews averaged 5.7 points on some sluggish shooting, going 30-of-75 (40 percent) from the field and17-of-53 (32.1 percent) on his triples. Despite the tough shooting month, many remained optimistic about Matthews, given the potential he showed throughout his first month with the Milwaukee Bucks.

After a difficult January, Matthews had the opportunity to start fresh to try and regain his rhythm in February. However, that has not been the case to this point, as the swingman has played some of his worst basketball of the season this month. In seven games, Matthews has averaged a brutal 1.6 points while shooting 4-of-20 (20 percent) from the floor and 3-of-17 (17.6 percent) from the perimeter. He has been an outright liability on the offensive end, failing to hit anything with some sense of consistency in his 16 minutes per game.

To make matters worse, Matthews’ February struggles have come at a time when the Bucks have desperately needed him. With Pat Connaughton, George Hill, and Grayson Allen all missing time as a result of injuries, along with the team trading Donte DiVincenzo and Rodney Hood, the Bucks are incredibly short on bodies in the backcourt. This was an opportunity for Matthews to step up off the bench, but he has not capitalized on the opportunity as he is having an awful month.

The answer to Matthews’ slump is easy: he has to hit his wide-open 3-pointers when given the opportunity. According to, 72.9 percent of his shot attempts have been 3-point tries this year, with 57.1 percent of those being wide open (six or more feet of space). Matthews has fully bought into his role as a 3-point shooter, but unsurprisingly, that shot has dictated how much success he has seen over these three months.

In December, Matthews proved to be a marksman by shooting 13-of-24 (54.2 percent) on his wide open threes. He followed that up by going 16-of-40 (40 percent) in January, which was still solid, but a noticeable dip in efficiency. However, his production has dipped mightily in February as Matthews is shooting just 3-of-12 (25 percent) on his wide-open 3-point attempts. If Matthews will kick his slump to the curb, it starts with knocking down these looks where he is all alone on the perimeter.

Matthews has a shot to be a difference-maker for this Milwaukee team. Though his defense is not what it once was, it is still solid enough to play late in games defending opposing top wings. Yet, if the Bucks cannot trust him to knock down these wide-open 3-pointers, it becomes harder to keep him out there in the big moments, especially once the playoffs begin.

The All-Star break came at the perfect time for the Bucks, who needed the break amidst all of the injuries to their roster. While their most important bench piece in Connaughton is set to miss more time beyond the break as he recovers from surgery, the Bucks are hoping to get several other vital pieces back once they return to action, and this will give them some downtime to recover. It will be a time to regroup as well, and can hopefully help players like Matthews wipe the slate clean.

With Connaughton out for the next several weeks, the Bucks will rely more on Matthews to be a spark off the bench whenever he checks in. That starts with him finding a groove from deep, as his February numbers are outright gruesome to this point. Given that Matthews has made his living in the league as a sharpshooter, he is more than capable of getting out of this slump in a hurry.

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The opportunity is there for the taking, and Matthews must seize it when the Bucks return to the court next week. Milwaukee’s bench has been a massive weak point all season long, and without their leading bench scorer in Connaughton, things could get even uglier. A savvy veteran such as Matthews could do his part to keep the bench brigade afloat in these trying times.