You will inevitably hear the words “Kentucky transfer” at least a dozen times before the CBS announcers say “Charles Matthews.” The former 5-star out of Chicago played in Lexington for just the 2015-16 season, scrapping together just 1.7 points per game. He decided to find a new home with John Beilein and Michigan.
After sitting a year due to NCAA transfer rules, he immediately produced for the Wolverines last season, pumping out 13 points and 5.5 rebounds a game. As Michigan waltzed to the NCAA Championship Game, he bumped that average up to 16.6 points a game.
He decided to return for one more year instead of departing early for the NBA.
The 6-foot-6, 205-pounder also earned a reputation as a defensive stopper. He jumped all over Indiana’s Romeo Langford, a first-round hopeful, when the Hoosiers visited Ann Arbor this past January.
While his scoring dipped a touch due to a mid-season ankle injury, he is back in force come NCAA Tournament time. He notched 22 points and 10 rebounds to help Michigan cruise past Montana Thursday night in Des Moines.
In order for Matthews and Michigan to return to the Final Four, they have to get past No. 10 seed Florida Saturday evening (5:15 p.m. EST, CBS). Another deep run could cement Matthews’ spot in this summer’s draft.
Let’s look at his projections, mock drafts and stock.
Charles Matthews Draft Projections & Mock Drafts
Jeremy Woo of SI.com docked Matthews a few spots due to his ankle injury, but still places him as a late second-rounder at No. 60 overall. He raves about his defensive potential.
Matthews has reinvented himself as a defensive-minded role player, which gives him a much more interesting NBA case in the second round. He’s become a stopper for Michigan’s elite defense, using his size and length on a consistent basis and helping set the tone as a leader. His tools have always intrigued NBA teams, and although he remains inconsistent offensively, he does plenty to help the team win and has shown a little bit of improvement as a jump shooter. He’ll likely never be elite from outside, but as long as Matthews can continue to knock down catch-and-shoot threes at a decent clip, he’ll make a case for himself as a glue guy who does a little bit of everything.
Bryan Kalbrosky of Hoops Hype aggregates 5 different mocks from Bleacher Report, SI.com, ESPN, The Athletic and NBA Draft. He shows Matthews as his No. 72 player, with the Athletic being the most optimistic at No. 50.
Aran Smith’s NBA Draft Net no longer shows him in his updated top-100 players list.
ESPN’s Draft Board has him as the No. 17 small forward and No. 62 player overall, which means with a tournament bump he’s a potential late pick.
Charles Matthews Scouting Report
The double-double versus Montana showed Matthews at his best. On offense, he is able to manufacture points in various ways.
He’s a sneakily good offensive rebounder for his lanky frame, as evidenced by his putback to score the game’s first points. He moves well off the ball, whether that’s in a halfcourt offense or in transition.
When he’s feeling it, he is able to drain midrange jumper after midrange jumper. He is incredibly springy, which means he is able to hit fadeaway jumpers in the post to help Michigan late in the shot clock.
Honestly, the only glaring flaw in his game is his 3-point touch. Even though nothing seems functionally wrong with his stroke, he only cans 31.5 percent of his triples. That lack of a perimeter threat allows teams to pack the middle against him to limit his production.
If he works out this kink, he won’t just be a defensive specialist in the NBA. He’ll be a solid option as a 6th man.