Wesley Matthews the Latest Blazers Target
My, how things have changed.
Matthews has signed a massive frontloaded five-year, $34 million offer sheet with the Blazers, according to Ross Siler of the Salt Lake Tribune. Matthews expected a big raise, but surely nothing like this. The 23-year-old guard is a restricted free agent, which means the Jazz have seven days to decide whether to match Portland's offer. If not, Matthews moves to the Pacific Northwest, stoking a division rivalry as the second RFA the Blazers will have tried to poach from Utah in two years.
Last summer, the Blazers extended a frontloaded four-year, $36 million deal to Jazz forward Paul Millsap, a contract that -- upon Utah's match -- forced the Jazz to cut costs in other areas, by trading guards Ronnie Brewer, Eric Maynor and veteran forward Matt Harpring.
The contract for the 6-foot-5 Matthews is absurdly rich, even given the guard's talents and youth. He'll be paid more over the next three years than the No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft, Blake Griffin. Matthews really served as a roleplayer for the Jazz, handling offensive possessions quite infrequently. He's not terribly versatile either -- he is a two-guard, lacking the ball-handling chops to play point guard or the size and rebounding prowess to slide in at small forward. It makes Portland seem like an odd fit, considering the team has one of the league's best two-guards, a certain Brandon Roy, soaking up 37 minutes a game.
To play Roy and Matthews together will mean to give up size at the small forward position -- it's just not something you can do regularly without feeling reprecussions. And never mind that the Blazers have the excellent Nicolas Batum (who I'd say constitutes a better, cheaper Matthews) at small forward, plus 2010 draft pick Luke Babbitt. (Should Jazz allow Portland to "win" Matthews, I imagine displeased trade bait Rudy Fernandez will be even more assured of a plane ticket out of Oregon.) The Blazers fired GM Kevin Pritchard on draft day, and haven't yet hired a replacement. No offense to the fellows running the show right now -- those are smart, hard-working guys -- but this move does not help the eventual Blazers GM. At all.
The Jazz shouldn't match a deal this eye-popping; by picking up Matthews last summer, Utah showed it can find diamonds in the rough. The excellent Jazz front office, led by GM Kevin O'Connor, landed several more anonymous players in working the D-League gyms, and drafted a wing, Butler standout Gordon Hayward, with the No. 9 pick in June's draft. Losing Matthews after having lost Brewer and now Kyle Korver (to the Bulls) hurts the depth of the team. But the Jazz don't need to break the bank to keep a roleplayer just to do it. There are more sensible ways to spend $34 million.
Like, for instance, Brewer himself, an unrestricted free agent who might take a fraction of what Matthews drew. The Jazz sent Brewer to Memphis for a protected first-round pick at last year's trade deadline, in order to save some cash on luxury tax payments. Despite the cost (a likely mid-first pick), Memphis declined to tender Brewer a qualifying offer this summer, making him an unrestricted free agent. The Jazz have the full mid-level exception to use, though the frontcourt might be a more pressing issue, with Mehmet Okur potentially missing time at next season's start and with Carlos Boozer have left for Chicago.