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How the Mavericks could get a first-round draft pick for Wesley Matthews

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There have been eight trades involving first-round draft picks since June. What can those trades tell us about their value?

Dallas Mavericks v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Cameron Browne/NBAE via Getty Images

If NBA players had an approval rating, Wesley Matthews might rise and fall more than any other player on the Mavericks. After defending James Harden well in in crunch time or nailing seven threes in a game, he’s an underrated role player. But any time he dribbles, drives, or even steps foot inside the three-point line on offense, he’s an overpaid, washed up, has-been who the Mavs never should have signed in the first place.

He’s a flawed non-All-Star level player, but an excellent role player with two select skills that won’t lose value in the league anytime soon: three-point shooting and perimeter defense.

Mavericks fans’ relationship with Matthews has always been complicated, but he’s never so divisive than when his name appears in trade rumors.

Marc Stein reported yesterday that “it would take a first-round pick to get [Wes Matthews].” This, of course, went over well with the ever so agreeable NBA Twitter, where everyone came to a consensus and quickly moved on, as they do around the trade deadline (that is not what happened).

Wesley Matthews by himself doesn’t seem to be worth a first-round pick, especially when teams are so hesitant to move them. But since June, the NBA has seen eight trades that actually resulted in a first-round draft pick changing hands. In that context, the idea of a Matthews-centric deal bringing a first-rounder to Dallas seems plausible:

June 19, 2017: Boston and Philadelphia swap top-three picks (it worked out just great).

June 22, 2017: On Draft Night, Philly trades a 2020 OKC first to Orlando for rights to Anzejs Pasecniks.

June 28, 2017: Houston flips every player the casual NBA fan still thinks plays for the Rockets and a 2018 first-round pick for Chris Paul from the LA Clippers.

June 30, 2017: Minnesota trades Ricky Rubio to Utah for OKC’s protected 2018 first rounder (the Timberwolves will only receive this pick if the Thunder finish outside of the lottery).

Is Wes Matthews more or less valuable than Ricky Rubio? Hindsight doesn’t help Rubio’s cause, but where would he rank among starting point guards in a league flushed with PGs? Here are the players that are definitely better than Rubio: Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul, John Wall, Damian Lillard, Kyle Lowry, Kemba Walker, Mike Conley, Goran Dragic, Jrue Holiday, Jeff Teague, and Eric Bledsoe (we’ll get to him). That’s 13 players, and there are at least eight young point guards that could pass him in a year or two: Dennis Smith Jr., D’Angelo Russell, Frank Ntilikina, Malcolm Brogdon, Lonzo Ball, De’Aaron Fox, and both Dejounte and Jamal Murray (both).

Rubio might have been an average point guard at the time of this trade, but his play this season and the young crop behind him are quickly pushing him and his coif hair right off the board.

A proven 3-and-D wing player has to be more valuable than a point guard who can’t shoot, right?

No? Okay, we’ll keep going:

July 6, 2017: Denver, Atlanta, and the LA Clippers pull off a three-team deal that removes Danilo Gallinari from the Nuggets cap sheet and nets the Hawks Houston’s 2018 first rounder from the Paul trade, a pick the Hawks will almost certainly receive since it’s only protected in the top-three.

Gallinari is a better player than Matthews, but he’s averaged just 54 games per year since emerging on the scene with the Knicks in 2009. That was apparently not enough to dissuade the Clippers from giving up a first rounder.

July 13, 2018: Toronto sends a 2018 lottery-protected first rounder and a 2018 second rounder to Brooklyn to persuade the Nets to take DeMare Carroll off their hands. The Raptors receive Justin Hamilton in the deal, but waive him the day after the deal.

The Mavericks have the cap space to perform a similar deal, but more on that later.

August 30, 2017: Boston (apparently) fleeces Cleveland into giving up Kyrie Irving for an injured 5’8 point guard, Jae Crowder, and Brooklyn’s 2018 first rounder.

November 7, 2017: Milwaukee sends Greg Monroe, their 2018 protected first rounder, and their 2018 protected second rounder to Phoenix for Eric Bledsoe. If the Bucks finish between 11-16 in the NBA Lottery then the Suns will receive this pick, but if they finish outside that range, the protections decrease until 2021 when the Suns own the pick outright.

Eric Bledsoe isn’t an All-Star; even in the Eastern Conference he wouldn’t be considered an All-Star. Like Gallo, he’s had his injury issues, averaging 50 games per year since entering the league in 2010. This figure doesn’t include last season when the Suns inexplicably sat Bledsoe for the last 15 games of the season.

In the cases of Rubio, Gallinari, and Bledsoe, the league has (if anything) proven that severely flawed non-All-Star level players with select skills can garner a first-round draft pick. All three of those players were traded to teams that got just desperate enough to send a first rounder for them:

  • Utah was attempting to replace maybe their third-best player in franchise history.
  • The Clippers talked themselves into Gallinari’s select skills and found themselves (for once) with actual assets to obtain him.
  • Milwaukee decided to turn the corner from rebuilding to contending right away and were tired of being the “young team” in the room.

If the Timberwolves, Nuggets/Hawks, and Suns could find a way to trade their flawed non-All-Star level players, why can’t the Mavericks get a first-round pick for Wes Matthews?