The Indiana Pacers have officially signed Wesley Matthews to help fill the void left behind by Victor Oladipo's season-ending injury. He is expected to make his debut with the team on Monday when it faces the Charlotte Hornets.
Matthews is having a strong season with averages of 12.8 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. He played his initial 44 games of the season with the Dallas Mavericks, but was traded as a part of the Kristaps Porzingis trade to the New York Knicks.
Coach Nate McMillan will start Matthews once he is acclimated to the team, but the newcomer will initially come off the bench. Being able to receive a starting role was a key factor in Matthews' decision to sign with the Pacers instead of other top teams.
Matthews in the starting lineup makes the most sense. Tyreke Evans has been most effective when coming off the bench and could perhaps find more of a rhythm playing more with that unit.
Perhaps the greatest attribute that Matthews brings to the table is his ability to knock down catch-and-shoot jumpers. This is especially the case since Bojan Bogdanovic and Darren Collison have stepped up significantly as perimeter playmakers and having a proficient off-ball guard next to them could help considerably.
Matthews should help the Pacers become a more potent perimeter shooting team and that is needed for a team that ranks 28th in 3-point attempts per game. He shot on average 2.3-of-6.0 (38 percent) from beyond the arc with the Mavs this season
It's important to note that Matthews has been at his best as a perimeter shooter when he is receiving his attempts in the form of catch-and-shoot opportunities. He is shooting on average 1.7-of-4.3 (40.4 percent) on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers this season
An underrated aspect of Wesley's off-ball tendencies is that he does an effective job of understanding when to shuffle his positioning. He creates passing windows for his teammates to deliver him the ball when they are trying to make plays off the dribble or after offensive rebounds.
It could be a significant benefit to the Pacers to have Matthews' ability to knock down catch-and-shoot jumpers when coming off screens. Bogdanovic is the only other threat in these situations in the starting unit and having another option could create some interesting layers.
One of the methods that McMillan should look to take from Mavs coach Rick Carlisle is how Matthews would be used as an on and off-ball screener to free up open opportunities. There are a lot of options with players that don't have to be standing still before the catch.
Perhaps one of the most intriguing components of adding Matthews is the impact that he can have for the Pacers in transition situations. Having two shooters like Matthews and Bogdanovic that can make a defense pay quickly in transition is a real luxury.
Indiana frequently creates scramble offensive opportunities in the open court whether by forcing turnovers as a unit or through Myles Turner strategically blocking shots at the rim. The Pacers have been a solid transition offensive team, but adding another shooter can help them to the next level in that regard.
A unique component of Matthews' skill-set is his ability to score in the post. He is often able to utilize his strength against guards to create favorable finishes with momentum going towards the basket while also being able to use his jumper against taller and longer defenders.
Not only did Matthews shoot an impressive 47.5 percent from the field in the post, but these sequences also accounted for 14.3 percent of his offensive possessions during his time with Dallas. It will be interesting to see how often Indiana looks to utilize this attribute.
It is worth noting that no other guard has a higher percentage of their offensive possessions come from the post than Wesley. Russell Westbrook (13.8 percent) and Dwyane Wade (10.4 percent) are the only other guards in the NBA that have at least 10 percent of their offensive possessions come from post-ups.
The other aspects of typical guard scoring are interesting to think about when evaluating Matthews. He has been basically average as a finisher around the basket but has uncharacteristically struggled with off the dribble jump shooting this season.
While Wesley's efficiency on finishes around the basket within the half-court has been essentially average, it's still much better than Oladipo and Evans. For reference, Matthews has shot on average 0.8-of-1.5 (53.1 percent) on these attempts this season compared to just 1.2-of-2.8 (42.2 percent) by Oladipo and 1.1-of-3.0 (37.2 percent) by Evans.
Matthews is at his best as a finisher when he is playing within the flow of the game and isn't relied on to be the primary initiator. Whether he is taking it all the way to the basket after coming off a screen, cutting to the basket, or driving out of spot-up or handoffs, there are options.
The Pacers no longer have a dynamic off the dribble jump shooting threat with Oladipo sidelined. While Wesley will not be the answer for this particular component of the game, his ultimate potential would still provide a legitimate benefit to their offense
The data regarding Matthews' off the dribble shooting efficiency within the half-court from this season compared to 2017-18 portrays a considerable difference. He is shooting on average 0.5-of-1.9 (23.8 percent) on these attempts this season compared to 0.9-of-2.4 (38.7 percent) last season.
There is a significant contrast in Matthews' tendencies as an off the dribble shooter compared to Oladipo. Matthews only attempted 29.8 percent of his off-the-dribble jumpers within the half-court from mid-range while Oladipo takes a majority of these attempts from that particular range.
It's important that Matthews is not trying to attack a set defense as a primary initiator with the end result being a step-back or pull-up jumper. He is at his best as a dribble jump shooter when he is able to make simple plays with a legitimate rhythm.
As for the defensive end of the floor, there has been a decline in Matthews' impact in recent seasons, but joining one of the league's best defenses should only help him. They have been able to find great results with career defensive liabilities playing key roles.
Let's not forget that Matthews has spent the majority of his minutes with Dallas out of position at the small forward spot and that has been a significant factor in him producing lesser results. Being able to go back to guarding his natural position could help substantially.
The bottom line is that Matthews' offensive skill-set is that of a cohesive veteran and should add new layers to the Pacers' half-court offense while being a formidable defender.
Grant Afseth is the Tribune’s Pacers columnist. He may be reached at email@example.com.