The Mavericks are hoping plenty of shots are punctuated with Wesley Matthews launching an arrow drawn out of his imaginary quiver.
The signature celebration from one of the most potent 3-point shooters in the league was forced to the sideline for the final 22 games of the season after Matthews tore his left Achilles’s tendon.
Four months after watching the 6-foot-5 guard get carried off the court on a stretcher, the opponent that night — the Dallas Mavericks — convinced him to leave Portland with a four-year, $70 million deal.
The move is a massive risk for the Mavericks, as offering a maximum contract to anyone carries an inherent liability, but recovering from a ruptured Achilles’s tendon has often derailed a player’s career.
According to CBS Sports, players returning to the floor following the injury played an average of 27 percent fewer minutes per game from the previous season.
The biggest drop off experienced by the 14 players that suffered the same injury from 1992 to last season was their shooting efficiency, as the collective group of players had their field goal percentage drop by about five percent between their last healthy season to their first year back on the court.
The study indicates a lot of the players began settling for 3-pointers instead of using their athleticism to attack the rim.
Perhaps an advantage for Matthews in his recovery process is he was already an exceptional 3-point shooter.
In his 60 appearances before suffering the injury, the former Marquette star knocked down nine more shots from 3-point range than he had from inside of the arc.
Despite missing nearly a quarter of the season, Matthews still ranked ninth in the NBA with 173 made shots from 3-point range and was on pace for more than 200 shots from beyond the arc for the second consecutive season.
Dallas has opened training camp and while Matthews has yet to be cleared for full contact or full speed drills, he is hoping to find a way to be in the lineup on opening night against the Suns on Oct. 28, even though coach Rick Carlisle believes that is a long shot.
The Mavericks are hoping Matthews can provide enough of a lift to get the team back into the post season.
Dirk Nowitzki is still the franchise player, but his scoring is no longer automatic. Last season, the 13-time All-Star averaged 17.3 points, but was far less effective on open shots from inside of the arc.
With the nearest defender spaced 4-to-6 feet away from him, Nowitzki was only able to connect 47 percent of the time, a five percent decrease from the previous season.
For Dallas to not only qualify for the playoffs again, but last for more than five games, Matthews must be able to contribute on both ends of the floor.
Scoring the ball wasn’t an issue, as the team ranked third in the NBA with an average of 105.2 points per game, but slowing down the opposition was a challenge.
The Mavericks surrendered 102.3 points per game, 25th best in the league, and allowed opponents to convert 45 percent of their attempts from the field.
Matthews went undrafted after graduating from college and was able to carve out a home in the NBA because of his ability to defend on the perimeter.
Following his rookie year with the Jazz, Matthews signed a lucrative deal to join the Trail Blazers as a defensive specialist, morphed into a deadly 3-point shooter and earned a max contract over the summer with Dallas.
The Mavericks still believe he can be an elite 3-point shooter and is young enough to fully heal from the devastating injury.
His value in fantasy basketball remains high not only because he can knock down long range shots in bulk, but also with accuracy.
In just five seasons, Matthews managed to set the Portland franchise record for 3-point field goals made with 826. During his tenure with the Trail Blazers, he converted 39.4 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc, eighth best in franchise history.
Yahoo! has the 28-year-old guard ranked as the 75th best player available, but mock drafts have him being selected on average 68th overall, or an early fifth round choice.
Matthews has proven to overcome the odds. After having 60 players chosen ahead of him at the 2009 NBA Draft, a class featuring 10 players still waiting to make their NBA debut, he capitalized on a training camp invite from Utah.
Even after becoming the most productive long range shooter Portland has ever seen, the team didn’t even call him to offer a contract when he became an unrestricted free agent.
Dallas clearly believes in him, offering a max contract even before he had recovered from a torn Achilles’s tendon, an injury that derailed numerous careers.
Matthews feels disrespected by the Trail Blazers, and the rest of the league may pay for it.