Milwaukee Bucks: 4 free agents who can replace Wesley Matthews

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - NOVEMBER 25 (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - NOVEMBER 25 (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images) /
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Veteran shooting guard Wesley Matthews signed with the Bucks on a one-year, $2.9 million contract last summer. With him entering unrestricted free agency this offseason, the Bucks stand to lose one of the best shooters and defenders on their roster. The Bucks are likely to offer him a contract, but they may not be able to match what other teams are willing to pay him.

From hitting timely threes to locking down opposing stars, Matthews did it all for the Bucks, even at the age of 36. He had a solid season for the Milwaukee Bucks in 2022-23, averaging a modest 3.4 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 0.7 assists per game while shooting 36.3 percent from the field and a below-average 31.5 percent from 3-point range. Matthews will no doubt be a target for other teams due to his reputation as a solid defender and a good three-point shooter.

Matthews’ season was not without its struggles. He missed 15 games due to injury, and he shot just 36.3 percent from the field, which was the lowest mark of his career. But he stayed ready all year long regardless of his role. He was responsible for locking down Kawhi Leonard in the dying seconds of one particularly heated matchup versus the Clippers.

Though he’s been an all-around glue guy for the Bucks, Wesley Matthews hung his hat on the defensive end. According to matchup data on, Matthews held opposing forwards to 44.3 percent efficiency when he was the closest defender. That he did this as a relatively undersized shooting guard speaks to his effort and hustle on that end of the floor. Bucks fans know his ability well by now: in one postseason, he was singularly responsible for shutting down the likes of DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine in the absence of a bigger wing defender. It was only against the Jays of Boston that his lack of size finally gave out, but only after a hard-fought seven-game series in which he gave Jayson Tatum all he could handle.

The Milwaukee Bucks are projected to have a salary of $221 million for the 2023-24 season. This is $27 million over the salary cap, meaning they have no cap space. They will need to use either their mid-level exception or bi-annual exception to sign free agents. However, the rules surrounding these exceptions are still unclear under the new collective bargaining agreement.

Here are a few names the Bucks could consider to be their next veteran wing defender.

No. 1 – Nickeil Alexander-Walker

Nickeil Alexander-Walker is one player who could potentially replace Wesley Matthews for the Bucks. He is a young, athletic guard who can score the ball and defend opposing scorers decently. He would give the Bucks another option off the bench and could help them create more space for Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Alexander-Walker had a bit of an up-and-down season in 2022-23, to put it lightly. He bounced around and moved from Portland to Utah and eventually Minnesota but generally struggled to find a stable role in all of those teams’ rotations that he could really star in. By season’s end, he averaged just 5.9 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game in 23 games for Minnesota. Those numbers are rather pedestrian, though he did shoot a respectable 38.2 percent from 3-point range for the season.

Despite his struggles, the fourth-year shooting guard showed flashes of his potential. He had a handful of games where he scored 20 or more points, and he also had a few games where he shot the ball well from 3-point range. It’s clear he’s able to heat up at times as long as the circumstances are right.

For the Bucks’ needs at the moment, Alexander-Walker’s defense is probably the most interesting facet of his game. According to Cleaning the Glass, the opposition scored just 107.5 points per 100 possessions in the minutes that Alexander-Walker played at the three spot, which puts him in the 93rd percentile in his position. Just like Matthews, Alexander-Walker split his time rather evenly between small forward and shooting guard despite being just 6-foot-5.

There are likely to be some concerns about Alexander-Walker’s fit with the Milwaukee Bucks. He is not a great shooter, which could be a problem in the playoffs when teams pull out the Vaunted Giannis Wall to congest the paint and force the Greek Freak to rely on his shooters. He is also not a great defender, which could be exploited by the opposing team’s best players.

Alexander-Walker could be a good replacement for Matthews, but there are some risks involved. He doesn’t exactly bring the same things Matthews does, but he’s a sound, young backup with plenty of room to grow going forward — and as far as free-agent backups go, the Bucks could certainly do a lot worse.