Going into last season, the Bucks knew four of their starters would become free agents in the 2019 offseason. The players were Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, Eric Bledsoe, and Malcolm Brogdon. Realistically, the front office and fans knew they would be only able to re-sign three of these players. So, when free agency started on June 30th, the Bucks made their choice. They re-signed Bledsoe during the 18-19 season, and they re-signed Middleton and Lopez on June 30th. These front office decisions left one man out, Malcolm Brogdon.
Brogdon ended up being dealt to the Indiana Pacers in a sign and trade deal with the Bucks. The Pacers received Brogdon for 4-years, $85 million dollars, and Milwaukee received a future first and two future second round draft picks. To get something for a player who Milwaukee had no intention of keeping was a phenomenal move by General Manager, Jon Horst. For sure, losing Brogdon is a huge blow to a Bucks team who was only two wins away from a trip to the NBA Finals the previous year. However, $85 million is a very steep price for somebody who has an injury history as long and as serious as Malcolm Brogdon’s. With all of his injuries pertaining to his feet, most likely, the Bucks front office believe his feet are done and he will always have issues with them.
With Malcolm Brogdon on the Pacers, this left a ginormous hole in Milwaukee’s starting lineup. For the next several hours, Milwaukee fans were very worried about who was going to be the team’s starting shooting guard until it was announced that the Bucks signed veteran, Wesley Matthews, on a 1-year minimum deal. After the signing the real question was and still is, can the 32-year-old journeyman replace Malcolm Brogdon effectively. The answer…is yes. Wesley Matthews, the Marquette alum, will thrive in Coach Budenholzer’s system. Essentially, with Giannis, Middleton, and Bledsoe on the team, all the Bucks need from a shooting guard is someone who can defend consistently and hit 3-pointers, more importantly, corner 3s. Luckily, Matthews is an elite corner 3 specialist who shoots 42.6% for his career in that spot. Also with Matthews, the Bucks don’t lose anything on defense replacing him with Brogdon. Since Brogdon has been in the league, he has had a defensive rating per 100 possessions of 111. In that same time frame, Matthews also has a DRTG of 111 but he also has more defensive win shares.
As I touched on before, Matthews is an elite 3-point shooter. He is better in that area of the game than Malcolm Brogdon. Matthews isn’t scared to let it fly and with a lighting release and great wingspan, he can get his shot off anywhere. Wesley Matthews actually took 173 non open threes last year compared to Brogdon’s 47. I’m not going to sit here and say a contested three is a great shot, but it is better to have someone willing to take them. This gives the player more defensive gravitational pull. Believe it or not, Matthews takes wide open threes as well. Last season he took 230 of them and hit 45.2% while Brogdon took 33 less and shot 45.7%. What’s even more impressive, and something that will benefit the Bucks and Giannis’ assists numbers, is the fact Wes shot an eFG% of 61% in catch and shoot situations last year. When he is left wide open, that number increases to 71%. One would have to assume Matthews will be able to benefit playing off of someone like Giannis Antetokounmpo the same way Malcolm Brogdon did.
The one thing I know people are worried about when it comes to the Matthews/Brogdon debate, is Matthews’ ability to pass. Although it may not seem like it but the Bucks are not losing a whole lot when it comes to playmaking. Last year, Matthews had 30 games of 3 assists or more while Brogdon had 41. Yes, this is an 11 game difference but Milwaukee fans have to remember they also have three elite playmakers already on the roster. Last season, Matthews averaged 12.2 points per game while shooting 40% from the field and 37.2% (his career average is 38.2%) from three. He also added 2.5 rebounds per game and 2.3 assists. The numbers aren’t alarming but Matthews’ impact definitely showed up in the playoffs when the Pacers were almost 9 points better per 100 possessions against the Celtics when Wes was on the floor.
With all that said, I’m not saying Wesley Matthews is better than Malcolm Brogdon. What I am saying, is that the Bucks signed an incredibly competent replacement for a tiny fraction of the price. For the price and the production, Wesley Matthews is a better fit for the Milwaukee Bucks than Malcolm Brogdon. Fans of the Bucks will be pleasantly surprised all year with how well Matthews plays for their team.
*All stats according to basketball-reference.com*