With the Utah Jazz signing veteran shooting guard Raja Bell to a three-year deal on Wednesday, it appears as if Wesley Matthews’ short tenure in Salt Lake City has come to an end. The former Marquette standout signed a 5-year, $33.4 million offer sheet with Portland this past weekend and according to multiple reports, the Jazz will not match the contract making Matthews the newest member of the Blazers. While I am thrilled that the Madison native earned a big-time payday, I am not sure how he is going to fit with his new team.
By: David Kay
Technically, the Jazz have until Tuesday night to match Portland’s offer for Matthews since he is a restricted free agent. But let’s be honest, my jaw dropped to the floor when I first saw the offer and agree with most who think that the Blazers are over-paying for his services. For a guy who a year ago went un-drafted to be earning this type of deal after one season, WOWSERS!
Don’t get me wrong, as a Marquette alum I am clearly a huge Matthews fan and proud of his perseverance and the hard work he displayed in making the Jazz roster. But never in a million years did I think he would get the type of offer he did this off-season after averaging 9.4 points per game and being really nothing more than a solid complimentary player.
Matthews struck the jackpot last summer as he found the perfect fit for his services, instantly earning playing time in Utah. He then ended up starting 48 games because he played hard on defense, didn’t try to do much on offense, but could knock down open three-pointers when given the opportunity. His style of play clearly caught the attention of Portland’s front office that had been targeting the shooting guard since the free agency period began. The Blazers wanted him to bad that they chose to front load the contract offer meaning Matthews would make $9 million dollars next season, thus decreasing the likelihood of the Jazz matching the offer.
But why did Portland pursue him that intensely?
The Blazers already have a stud shooting guard in Brandon Roy, a valuable back-up in Rudy Fernandez, and they just used their first round pick on a combo guard, Elliot Williams out of Memphis. Where does Matthews fit into that equation?
He does bring a different toughness and attitude to the position since Roy and Rudy are both more offensive-minded players. But unless Fernandez is dealt before the start of the season, (which is a real possibility since he has been the subject of trade rumors this off-summer) Matthews is not guaranteed any significant playing time. Even if Rudy is traded, the former Golden Eagle is stuck coming off the bench behind Roy who played more than 37 minutes a game last season. The other option for the Blazers would be playing one of the two at the small forward position where they already have Nicolas Batum, Dante Cunningham, and rookie Luke Babbitt.
In a way, I would imagine Matthews was hoping the Jazz would match this offer so he could come back to Utah and resume his role as starting shooting guard. However, Matthews told Fanhouse that Utah never made him an offer so it’s on to the next one.
While the money was undoubtedly too good to turn down, I still think Utah is the better fit for Matthews in terms of playing time and a match to his style of play. By the way, how is this for irony… Matthews was not selected in the 2009 NBA Draft but will be making more money next season than each of the sixty players chosen. Unreal.
Check out The Sports Bank’s exclusive interview with Matthews from earlier this season.
Click here for other NBA off-season analysis.Follow paulmbanks