One of the more intriguing situations of the 2015 free-agency season appears to be near a resolution. David Aldridge reported late Thursday night that injured unrestricted free agent shooting guard Wesley Matthews, most recently of the Portland Trail Blazers, has agreed in principle to a four-year deal with the Dallas Mavericks. ESPN.com's Marc Stein added that the dollar amount will not be finalized until the Mavericks finish their attempts to sign power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and center DeAndre Jordan, the latter of whom appears to have narrowed his choice to the Mavs and Los Angeles Clippers.
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Aldridge also said that Matthews has notified the Sacramento Kings that he will not accept their more lucrative offer, which Stein tabbed at four years and $64 million earlier Thursday. The Kings had engineered a much-criticized trade on Wednesday to open up cap space to sign some combination of Matthews, ex-Maverick and new Indiana Pacer Monta Ellis, and enigmatic point guard Rajon Rondo, also most recently of Dallas and the only member of the trio still available.
Once firmly entrenched as one of this summer's top prospective free agents, Matthews saw his stock dip in early March when he tore his left Achilles tendon during the second half of a home game against the Mavericks. Matthews entered free agency with the firm belief that he was still worth around $15 million per year in this market. Sacramento's offer confirms that at least one team agreed with him, and it stands to reason that Dallas's final figure can't be too much lower than $15 million if only not to damage their new shooting guard's pride. Yet Matthews poses a considerable risk given the poor history of full recoveries from Achilles tendon tears. The Mavericks will hope that Matthews bucks trends due to his age — he turns 29 in October — and considerable past success. Agent Jeff Austin deserves serious credit for finding Matthews a lucrative deal despite these factors.
If healthy, Matthews is one of the finest shooting guards in the NBA and an elite "3-and-D" wing. He has never shot worse than 38.2 percent from three-point range in any of his six professional seasons, ranks first in made three-pointers in Blazers history, and ranked fourth in the NBA in made threes at the time of his injury. He is also an excellent defender capable of defending several types of perimeter players, which could be a boon to a Dallas squad with defensive question marks. Although All-Star teammates Aldridge and Damian Lillard earned more attention, it was no surprise that Matthews's injury turned Portland from a conference-title contender into the playoff matchup every team wanted.
The risk of the Matthews deal is indicative of the Mavericks' offseason actions as a whole. The shooting guard has been said to be ahead of his rehab schedule, but this process usually takes eight to nine months and should keep him unavailable for the start of the season next fall. In addition, the Mavericks haven't yet added a starting-caliber point guard to replace Rondo and could have to turn to the notoriously plodding Roy Hibbert if they lose out on Jordan. With Dirk Nowitzki nearing retirement, the Mavericks are comporting themselves like a win-now team, but they have few assurances that they can add the right players to improve upon last season's seventh-place finish. Their plan could very well work, but Mark Cuban and Co. are betting on a lot of conditionals breaking their way. For all his talents, their commitment to Matthews is perhaps the biggest "if" of all.
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