Aside from potentially occupying the same spot in the starting lineup, Wesley Matthews and Victor Oladipo don’t have much in common. Speed and quickness were sapped from the former as fast as skilled agility elevated the latter. Where Oladipo skips the pleasantries and cuts to the chase, Matthews processes — waiting judiciously for when to explode around a screen or take advantage of a smaller defender on the block. He posts about as frequently as his predecessor isolates, and his predecessor hunts mismatches on the block with near to the same scarcity as he creates his own shot.
Matthews can’t replace Oladipo, but he can elevate what Oladipo left behind.
Wes shoots from way downtown
The 31-year-old off-ball scoring threat is launching deep threes more frequently than ever before in his career.
He’s attempted twice as many shots from 25-29 feet as Cory Joseph and nearly 50 more than Tyreke Evans.
“After the injury (Mavericks assistant coach God Shammgod) and I worked on shooting threes deeper to have that become more of a rhythm for me, and a routine and a habit to extend my range,” Matthews told the media during training camp of how he adjusted his game post-Achilles tear. “It helps me to get more open looks because guys will be hesitant to close out two, three feet behind the line. And it helps our spacing out as well.”
Because of his willingness to shoot from way downtown, look at where Kelly Oubre’s feet are on this possession.
The lanky wing is literally standing on top of the 3-point line, and he still has ground to cover to contest the shot. By the way, providing help to the baseline is more of a burden with a credible shooter that far away from the basket.
Having Matthews in the lineup will stretch opposing defenses a step further than Indiana’s other options at two-guard.
He also spaces the floor the old fashioned way, backing down smaller guards his back to the basket.
He already knows some stuff
A side benefit of the Pacers borrowing a set from the Mavericks to make Doug McDermott more comfortable is that Matthews is already accustomed to running the same action.
See how McDermott sets the faux flex screen to create hesitation before shifting into high gear and running off the elbow pindown?
Turns out, Matthews can do that too:
The only difference is the 10-year veteran is more adept at putting the ball on the floor and creating separation with ball fakes and side steps, whereas McDermott was forced to take a rushed shot when TJ Leaf was a beat too slow.
Now, checkout this running slip.
Look familiar? That’s because the Pacers also like to involve their perimeter threats in ghost screening action.
With recognizable plays being called by the same coach he played for when he signed with the Trail Blazers in 2010, the groundwork is there for Matthews to provide the Pacers with a relatively seamless upgrade to their backcourt rotation.
He adds wrinkles to existing sets
This nifty set has cropped up every now again since Leaf rejoined the playing rotation.
It’s a counter to a basic stagger. Leaf curls around McDermott as the first screener and then McDermott flips around and flies off of Sabonis as the second screener for three.
Leaf has yet to harness his skills as a stretch-four, so the somewhat obvious play is for him to cut around the initial pick rather than dart out to the 3-point line. With Matthews out there with Bogdanovic at power fauxward, they could mix it up.
Matthews can sweep into the paint coming around the initial wide pindown or act like a distraction and then circle around to the corner for three with McDermott wheeling around to set a dummy ball screen for Evans, like so:
The permutations of what they will be able to do with those two’s ability to both read and attack could go on and on.
He could bring some creative structure where needed
There should be no shame in pilfering this set from the Mavericks for when Matthews is on the floor with the Turner-Sabonis pairing. The duel-center lineups are still scoring less than a point per possession because the offense continues to have a tendency to devolve into one of them (typically, Myles) dragging defenders into the paint when the other is posting.
This would give them a guideline as to how to act as shields rather than bumpers in a pinball machine.
With Sabonis setting a faux pindown and Turner stationed at the elbow, Matthews has a choice to make and boy, oh boy, does he sell it.
With the showmanship of an illusionist using smoke and mirrors, watch closely as he motions for where he wants Dorian Finney-Smith to set the pin before he abruptly changes course and runs off the screen from DeAndre Jordan instead.
After getting left in the dust, Taurean Prince doesn’t even make an effort to closeout.
If Jordan’s man had helped on the shooter, the once-springier big man could’ve reacted by slipping to the rim. Likewise, had Matthews ran off the pindown and the defense switched, Sabonis could have attacked the mismatch in the role of Finney-Smith.
As a savvy floor spacer with an affinity for bully ball, Matthews isn’t Oladipo.
He’s a way for them to be better in the star’s wake, providing a different dynamic while still fitting in.