The fallout from DeMarcus Cousins’s injury continues to ripple across the league. The latest? A potential Wesley Matthews trade to the New Orleans Pelicans.
According to The Athletic’s Michael Scotto, “before DeMarcus Cousins’ Achilles injury, the Pelicans tried to acquire Wesley Matthews.” The deal in place sent Matthews to the Pelicans and in return, the Mavericks received Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca, and a first-round pick. The year in which the pick would be conveyed was not reported, but it’s probably safe to assume that it would have been the same pick the Pelicans sent to the Chicago Bulls for Nikola Mirotic.
The deal for Matthews stalled due to the injury to Cousins, but Dallas was also apparently “hesitant to take on the contracts of Asik and Ajinca beyond this season.”
Omer Asik is owed $11.2 million next season and has a player option worth $11.9 million in the 2019-20 season but only $3 million of that is guaranteed. Ajinca is only owed $5.3 million next season. Both deals combined would’ve cost about $2 million less than Matthews’ $18.6 million player option next season.
That seems like a good deal: the Mavericks receive a coveted first-round pick for Wesley Matthews and shed about $2 million in salaries for next season. However, both Asik and Ajinca would essentially be dead money on a Mavericks team that holds firm on starting Dirk at the five and will likely have options to draft their big man of the future in the upcoming NBA Draft. But, the Mavericks already have a forklift load of centers so what’s two more?
It’s unclear which issue was more of a literal deal breaker, the injury to Cousins or the Asik and Ajinca contracts for next season. On Thursday, before the deal for Mirotic was even official, Marc Stein reiterated that “Dallas is going to hold firm on their ‘it’ll take a first for Wes’ stance.’” He also said that “for a [first-round pick] the Mavs would take on money.” This reported deal to the Pelicans checks both boxes and is the exact type of deal the Mavericks would need to make to get a first-round pick for Matthews.
Piecing these two reports together, it seems like the Pelicans wanted to find a pseudo-replacement for Cousins instead of a wing like Matthews.
However, the Mavericks’ reported hesitancy to take on the Asik and Ajinca contracts seems to contract their reported willingness to “take on money” for a first-round pick. Hesitancy doesn’t necessarily mean reluctance or even refusal, but it seems the Mavs are waiting for just the right money to take on. In a perfect world, the Mavs would like an expiring contract but there are only so many of those that would work, and of those that could be traded (like Brook Lopez and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope), Dallas wouldn’t get a first-round pick for them.
There are deals that could net the Mavericks a pick for Matthews, but being picky about what type of salary comes back for him would severely limit their options. Could the Mavericks have completed this Matthews deal with the Pelicans before Cousins was even injured? The answer to that is obviously lost in the sunken place but it’s an interesting what-if going forward, especially after we know where that Pelicans pick lands in the draft and who the Bulls have available.
Stein also noted on the Dunc’d On Basketball Podcast on Thursday that even the idea of trading Matthews is a step for the Mavericks: “A year ago the Mavericks looked at Wes Matthews as an untouchable... He’s no longer untouchable.”
A Matthews trade has long been a pipe dream for many Mavs fans, but each day it seems like the Mavericks take another step in that direction.