In the coming weeks, and perhaps throughout the summer, there will be a lot of rumors from various hoops sites and the Twitterati suggesting the path forward for the Dallas Mavericks. This isn’t anything new, of course. But with Dallas looking to get younger in preparation for the post-Dirk era, making the right moves now seem more imperative than ever before. So, with a youth movement seemingly in full swing, one player in particular is being brought up a lot as a possible trade piece. That player is Wesley Matthews.
As of yet, there have been no firm reports that Dallas is shopping Matthews. It’s all just Internet speculation. However, there’s at least a shred of validity to the claims that it makes sense to move him. The biggest factor in the desire to deal Matthews appears to be his age. He will turn 31 before the start of next season. That doesn’t necessarily mesh with a roster mostly made up of players 26 and under.
Then there’s his contract. Matthews is on the books for two more seasons (2018 is a player option, but he is unlikely to elect free agency). Matthews will make $17.9 million next season and $18.6 million the following season. It’s a reasonable amount, especially in today’s NBA. But with the league’s salary cap sitting around $101 million next season, it could cause some problems. Dirk Nowitzki has a team option that is slated to pay him $25 million and Harrison Barnes will make $23.1 million next year. Dallas will also likely retain Nerlens Noel who will likely command a max salary worth in the ballpark of $25 million per season. That could mean that three players will take up two-thirds of the team’s salary before even factoring in Matthews’ contract. That doesn’t lead to financial flexibility in the short term and essentially means the team can’t make a splash in free agency without pulling off a trade.
Age and money are the major reasons so many people think that Matthews should be moved. They aren’t bad reasons. They are the primary reasons players are traded in sports. But Matthews has cemented himself as a core member of the roster with his play. In two seasons with Dallas, he’s averaging 13 points on 39 percent shooting, including 36.2 percent on 3-pointers, 3.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and one steal in 34 minutes per game. He’s also shown the ability to play multiple positions, switching from primarily a shooting guard to a small forward for much of the last season.
It’s his defense that makes him valuable, though. Matthews has guarded every position during his time with the Mavs. Yes, this includes centers who he’ll occasionally find himself matched up with because of a switch. In isolation situations, he’s proven to be one of the better defenders in the league and squares up with the NBA’s best night in and night out. It’s this effort and competitive drive that also make him one of the leaders in the locker room.
Matthews likely isn’t going anywhere. Not yet, anyway. He’ll likely be a Maverick as long as Dirk is in the league. Mark Cuban and Rick Carlisle think highly of him and he’s a role model for the young players that Dallas is bringing in. If, for some reason, the Mavs choose to part ways with Matthews, we’ll probably be the last to know. The Mavs are notoriously tight-lipped when it comes to trades. It’s fun to speculate about the future makeup of the roster but right now there doesn’t appear to be any real incentive to move him.
For more thoughts on Wesley Matthews and the Mavericks offseason, you can follow Doyle Rader at @TheKobeBeef.