Does Wesley Matthews make sense as a Maverick next season? This is a key question facing Dallas as the team slowly drags itself towards a youth movement.
The team will always vocalize that the goal is to make the playoffs, largely because of the value placed on having a winning culture. However, this season finally pulled off the long awaited shift towards a post-Dirk Nowitzki future, as the Mavericks played untested players like Yogi Ferrell and Seth Curry and made the big splash for 22-year-old Nerlens Noel.
Because of this seeming change in direction, one of the first questions surrounding Dallas this offseason is what it wants to do with the few remaining veterans on the team signed to longer contracts. Matthews is two years into a four-year max deal, so it’s worth asking how he fits in with the team’s future plans.
Should the Mavericks consider trading Wesley Matthews?
Dallas finished the 2016-17 regular season with the ninth worst record in the league. Moving forward, every option should be considered, including trading Matthews. First, let’s remember why you would reasonably want to keep the Mavs’ resident archer around. Regardless of the youth on the roster or the apparent shades of a rebuild going on, it’s pretty clear that a player like Matthews can be vital for a solid team culture. He’s a tireless worker, consummate professional, and an iron man on the court.
On the other hand, he’ll also be 31 years old next season, and while he has been a reliable starter, he has not been able to get back to the max-contract borderline star he was before the Achilles injury. In particular, he’s shot below 40% in both seasons with the Mavs. If there’s a team interested, the Mavericks must listen at the very least.
Does Matthews fit with the current roster?
The short answer is yes, because Rick Carlisle is a wizard and can make things work regardless of roster make up. The more complex answer depends on what line up the Mavericks intend to go with next season.
Dallas found success this season going very small with Dirk Nowitzki at center, Harrison Barnes at power forward, and Wesley Matthews at small forward. However, with the acquisition of Noel, Dallas may need to rework the front court with Noel playing center, Dirk getting the nod at power forward, and Barnes playing the three. If you want to keep Yogi Ferrell and Seth Curry at the guard slots, that leaves Matthews as the odd man out.
Of course, Dirk could go to the bench in favor of Barnes at the four, but that seems like a worrisome solution due to Barnes’ lackluster rebounding numbers. Matthews playing the two instead of Curry isn’t necessarily a great fit, as Matthews does not bring the same sort of reliable driving and creating ability at which Seth excels. Wes to the bench makes sense if the goal is an offense-first, smallball lineup, but does paying a sixth man $18 million a year make sense?
Is Matthews even tradable?
Wes has two years and around $36 million left on his deal. The NBA salary cap jumped from around $70 million at the end of 2015-16 to a whopping $94 million this season. The 2017-18 season is expected to have a cap near $102 million.
A brief look at the current NBA team salary totals (before free agency) reveals that there really aren’t a lot of teams that might be willing or able to trade for Matthews. Contending teams like the Warriors and Cavaliers are capped out. Rising younger teams who could use a do-it-all vet, like Milwaukee or Portland, are largely in the same boat.
Would the youthful Sixers or Wolves be interested in a veteran swingman? In theory, yes, but sinking 18% of the cap into a possibly fading player is a big investment, no matter what team’s cap sheets look like. Unless the Wolves are confident Wes is the last piece to put their scrappy young group into playoff contention, it feels unlikely this is the sort of move that makes sense for them.
Then there’s the additional issue of what would other teams give up to make the salaries match? Do the Mavericks want to take on dead weight? Are younger players from other teams even on the table for discussion? There are a lot of unanswered questions to work out if the Mavs were to get serious about trading Wes.
No, the Mavs aren’t trading Wesley Matthews
After going through whether they should trade Wes and if they even can, it becomes pretty clear that Wes will be a Maverick through at least next season. And there’s really nothing wrong with that. He’s a good player who has bouts of terrible shooting. The Mavericks will simply have to find a way for him to fit even as they commit to getting younger throughout the roster.