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Wesley Matthews, Bucks

NBA

How Wesley Matthews could end up being a major X-factor for the Bucks

The Milwaukee Bucks have put together a team brimming with talent. Behind the reigning MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo, an All-Star wingman in Kris Middleton, and a great stretch 5 in Brook Lopez, many pundits are picking the Bucks to top the Eastern Conference this year.

Lost in the debate is veteran guard Wesley Matthews.

The Marquette product signed a two-year deal with the Bucks this offseason. After swapping Malcolm Brogdon in a sign-and-trade to the Indiana Pacers, Matthews is expected to be the team’s starting shooting guard.

Brogdon leaves some big shoes to be filled. Last year, he was arguably the third-best player on the team and the X-factor for the Bucks. Now, that role falls on Matthews.

Matthews is a perfect candidate for this role.  Milwaukee knows what it is getting from Giannis and Middleton. Lopez has been fairly consistent as well, and Eric Bledsoe is a solid point guard. A big question is how many quality minutes Matthews can give the team.

Brogdon is obviously the better player of the two, but Matthews isn’t exactly washed up. Last season, he spent time with three teams and put up decent statistics. Through 69 games, Matthews shot 37.2 percent from deep on 5.8 attempts per game and averaged 12.2 points and 2.5 assists per contest.

For a 10-year veteran who played two-thirds of those games for below .500 teams, those are more than respectable numbers.

Matthews will have the opportunity to lock in on certain areas of his game and focus entirely on them. The Bucks are not expecting him to go out and get 15-20 points every night. They don’t need him to lock up the opponent’s best player. Those days are behind him.

Instead, Matthews will become yet another spot-up shooter in Milwaukee’s offensive system. It’s likely he will get some of the best shots he has had since he played for the Portland Trail Blazers and benefited from opponents focusing on LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard.

If Matthews can hit a good chunk of his open 3s and play servicable wing defense, it will soften the blow of Brogdon’s departure.

Of course, Antetokounmpo will dominate plenty of games and the Bucks will cruise to a lot of wins, especially against weaker Eastern Conference opponents.

But when Milwaukee matches up against top-tier squads, the team will depend on quality performances from Matthews to pull put wins, just as they did with Brogdon.