Wesley Matthews started the season slowly but has been fantastic for the Los Angeles Lakers.
They always say to never judge a book by its cover and if the cover to the Los Angeles Lakers‘ 2020 season was the first game of the season, then every fan would have instantly sold their Wesley Matthews stock.
Matthews was outright bad in his first game in the purple and gold. He played 11 minutes, scored zero points, missed two shots and played rather poor defense despite recording a steal. Based on Basketball-Reference’s Game Score, this was the fourth-worst game by any Laker player to play 10 minutes this season.
Matthews has since rebounded. While it took him five games to make his first three-point shot, he posted a positive Game Score in each of the following games before eventually dropping 18 points against the San Antonio Spurs. It is the sixth-best game this season for the Lakers by someone not named Anthony Davis or LeBron James.
Laker fans are hoping that Matthews continues this level of play the rest of the season into the NBA Playoffs. It would be yet another huge boost for this Lakers team as opposed to last season, as Matthews is essentially replacing Danny Green in the rotation.
Green was traded alongside the 28th overall pick for Dennis Schroder, but Matthews was the one that was brought in to replace Green as the three and D wing. For a fraction of the cost (on top of getting Schroder), the Lakers have gotten a significant upgrade.
Green’s regression has followed him from the NBA bubble into this season and Matthews has been the much better offensive player. Green is averaging 10.9 points per 36 minutes as opposed to Matthews’ 9.6, but as the Tweet above outlines, Matthews has been the far more efficient scorer.
Defensively Green has had the edge this season although Matthews is not a bad defender in the slightest. Green has posted a 2.0 Defensive Box Plus-Minus this season while Matthews has posted a 0.5. Zero is considered average, so Matthews is still providing above-average defense.
The disparity offensively is still much higher than the disparity defensively. Matthews is averaging .160 win shares per 48 minutes while Green is averaging .116. That is an increase of 38%.
But what about last season’s Danny Green? He did hit a big shot against the Dallas Mavericks at the beginning of the year and was touted as one of the best three and D players that LeBron James had ever played with.
Through eight games last season Green was shooting 43.9% from beyond the arc, 44.4% from the field and had a Box Plus-Minus of 2.0, whereas Matthews currently sits at -0.1. Green’s number was higher, in large part, due to his defense.
But that proved to be just a hot streak for Green. Green finished last season with a .542 eFG% (.152% worse than Matthews), a .367 3P%, a .416 FG% and an offensive rating of 108. His BPM to end the season was just 0.5, actually posting a -1.1 Offensive BPM.
Matthews’ impact offensively is miles ahead of what Green’s was overall last season and even a natural season-long regression likely won’t dip him to the level Green was at last season.
And if he starts playing better defense then oh boy, other teams will need to watch out for Wesley Matthews on the Los Angeles Lakers.