It really depends on what method you are using to render.
If you are using OpenGL (LWJGL, JOGL, LibGDX), then most certainly using matrices is a very good idea. Translating with OpenGL is as simple as calling glTranslate() (and you should probably set the matrix mode to the modelview beforehand with glMatrixMode(GL_MODELVIEW) ).
If you are using just Java2D, then I'm not an expert. But I expect that the way you are doing it would be just as good as any other.
If you would like to know about matrix maths then I recommend this website. Taught me everything I know, at least it did when I was starting out.http://www.wildbunny.co.uk/blog/vector-maths-a-primer-for-games-programmers/