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A Year After Being Undrafted, Wesley Matthews Set to Cash in

Jul 2, 2010 – 8:09 PM
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Chris Tomasson

Chris Tomasson %BloggerTitle%

Wesley MatthewsWhen free agency concludes, the guy getting the biggest raise should be Memphis forward Rudy Gay, whose salary will go from $3.28 million to around $14 million.

But when it comes to a percentage raise, Gay, making about four times his salary next season, won't even touch what one player is in line to do. Utah guard Wesley Matthews could make around 10 times what he earned last season.

A year ago, Matthews was facing the disappointment of not being selected in the NBA draft. But now Matthews is set to cash in as a restricted free agent after making the league minimum of $457,588, and could earn a salary up to the mid-level exception of about $5.8 million.

That's right. There's an outside chance the undrafted Matthews could make more next season than the $5.36 million the No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft, the Clippers' Blake Griffin, will pull down.

Had Matthews been taken in the first round, he would have been locked into a salary scale for likely four seasons. Had he been selected in the second round, with that team holding his rights, he might have pretty much been forced to sign for the minimum with team options for one or more years.

But Matthews, being able to choose his team and thought by many to be just a camp player last fall in Utah, signed a one-year deal. And now he's an interesting commodity after averaging 9.4 points as Utah's starting shooting guard and upping that average to 13.2 in 10 playoff games.

Sources said Portland, San Antonio, the Lakers and Milwaukee are among teams that have called so far to express interest in Matthews. Milwaukee, which is where Matthews played in college at Marquette and is close to his hometown of Madison, Wis., is likely out of the running after having Thursday agreed to a deal to re-sign shooting guard John Salmons. And the Lakers look to be out of money after Friday agreeing to sign point guard Steve Blake to a four-year, $16 million deal.

"It's a pretty unique situation,'' said his Matthews agent, Lance Young. "Carl Landry was. But very few have been in this situation.''

Landry, at least, was a second-round pick in 2007. After earning the minimum of $427,163 on a one-year contract that season with Houston and stunning observers, Landry signed a contract that earned him $3 million the next season.

So Landry made just over seven times more in his second season. If Matthews signs for a little more than $3.2 million, he'll top that.

"It would be a dream if he could get that,'' Matthews father, Wes Matthews Sr., a former NBA guard, said of his son signing for the full mid-level exception. "I think he's a $3 million to $5 million player. You look at C.J. Miles, he's makes $3 million (actually $3.7 million for the Jazz) and Kyle Korver ($5.36 million for the Jazz last season before becoming a free agent). He's just as valuable as them.''

The father joked the most he made in any NBA season from 1980-90 was about $165,000, nearly a third less than what his son earned last season with the minimum. The dad said he earned just $64,000 as a rookie after being the No. 14 pick by Washington in 1980.

The son couldn't be reached, but his dad said he spoke to him Friday. He said his son's preference is to re-sign with the Jazz.

"There's no question his loyalty is to the Jazz. They gave him a chance. But it has to be a fair, market-value deal.''
- Wes Matthews, Sr.
on his son Wesley's decision
"There's no question his loyalty is to the Jazz,'' Matthews Sr. said. "They gave him a chance. But it has to be a fair, market-value deal.''

The father said it would be fine if a deal could be reached quickly, but the son knows that it's a business. Is it ever.

Because Matthews has played just one season for Utah, the Jazz don't have any Bird rights on him. So Utah, which will be over the salary cap, must use money from its mid-level of $5.8 million to re-sign Matthews.

Reached Friday by FanHouse, Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor only would confirm the team must use its mid-level exception to re-sign Matthews. He would not offer a comment on how much the Jazz would like to retain him, but it's well known he's wanted back.

Another team can put down an offer sheet on Matthews for an amount next season up to the mid-level exception, which the Jazz would have seven days to match. With there being virtually no chance Utah could get Matthews for the $2.08 million biannual exception, the Jazz realistically can't use any part of its mid-level until his situation is resolved. If part of it was to be used, another team easily could steal Matthews away because the Jazz might not have enough money to match.

Sources say Matthews is looking into signing a five-year deal for added security. Whatever he gets, Matthews should be earning more next season than some players taken in the top half of the lottery in the 2009 draft.

"That's just crazy,'' said his father. "That just shows that God is good. It's a dream come true. ... The money will take care of itself. But I've told (the son) that even thought you've made a name for yourself, you can never lose your hunger or your drive to stay humble.''

Chris Tomasson can be reached at or on Twitter @christomasson
Filed under: Sports
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