Saturday, May 30, 2015

Free Agent Profile: Wesley Matthews

Wes Matthews - G/F - 6'6, 220
FA Ranking: 7

Prior to tearing his left Achilles tendon near the end of the regular season, Wes Matthews was set for a big payday in free agency.  After the injury, Matthews may see a bit of a reduced market and a smaller overall contract.  Although the history of NBA players suffering Achilles injuries suggests that Matthews faces an uphill climb, I haven't lost any interest in the dynamic wing role player.  Matthews  went undrafted in 2009, latched on with the Jazz during the Orlando Summer League and was the team's starting SG by February.  A restricted free agent after just one season in the league, Matthews signed a large offer sheet with Portland in the summer of 2010.  The deal worked out for both sides, as Matthews was a catalyst for the team's growth, and he put himself in position to be a hot name in free agency, torn Achilles or not.  Assuming Matthews has made as much positive progress as possible by the July free agency period, expect him to still be able to sign a big contract with the team of his choosing.

Wes Matthews

Wes Matthews has played in six seasons and never attempted fewer than 165 threes in a season, with a career-low 3PAr of .292.  In those six seasons, Matthews' lowest 3P% for a single season is 38.2%.  Among Pistons with at least 165 attempts in 2014-15, only Kyle Singler shot better than 38%.  That says that even in his worst season, Wes Matthews would have been one of the best shooters on last year's Pistons teams.  Matter of fact, you would have to go back to the 2010-11 season to find anybody other than Singler who had out-shot Matthews' worst shooting season.  He's definitely more than just a shooter though.  In most years, despite a 3PAr that tops .500, Matthews gets to the free throw line with regularity, although his FTr did suffer a bit in 2014-15.  His stellar outside shooting, regular FT trips and proficiency inside the arc all add up to Matthews producing an excellent TS%, year-in and year-out.  He's an average play-maker at the SG spot, and an okay rebounder.

Looking at Matthews' offensive game a little bit closer, he does a lot of things well:

Play Type
Matthews PPP (Rank)
0.89 (54th)
PnR Ball-handler
0.86 (30th)
0.99 (4th)
1.17 (9th)

His inability to create points in isolation situations is a bit worrying, and he's nowhere near elite as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, but Matthews is one of the best spot-up scorers in the NBA and one of the best post-up wings in the NBA.  Among wing players with at least 60 post-up possessions, only Jimmy Butler posted a PPP mark better than Matthews' 0.99 points per possession; Arron Afflalo tied that mark.  If the Pistons are going to lose Greg Monroe this summer, Detroit will need a way to create offense on the low blocks.  Setting up Matthews with a mismatch would be a great way to fill that gap.  Monroe had more than four times the possessions that Matthews did, but Matthews was .12 PPP better than Monroe posting up this season.  That's not to say Matthews is a better post-up player than Monroe, but that he can fill in nicely if asked to.  His abilities as a spot-up shooter would obviously fit well in Stan Van Gundy's spacing-oriented offense.  Adding a player who can space the floor around Jackson-Drummond pick-and-rolls is a priority for this offseason.

Matthews' defensive profile is similar to his offensive profile, where he is pretty mediocre in isolation situations, and excellent in the other areas:

Play Type
Matthews PPP Allowed (Rank)
0.78 (50th)
PnR Ball-handler
0.72 (14th)
0.74 (25th)
0.81 (9th)

The Pistons were an average defensive team last season, and adding a solid defensive player like Matthews would be a good step towards getting over the hump.  Whether he would be used at SG or SF in Detroit, Matthews would easily be the best perimeter defender the organization has seen in the last half-decade.  While I don't think his offensive game will suffer following his Achilles injury, the other side of the floor is where he could see some regression.  Matthews has never been an explosive athlete, but if he sees a significant decrease from what he did have, he may no longer have the quickness to defend the SG position, or the verticality to defend SFs.

Matthews has spent the majority of his career at SG, but has spent enough time at SF and has adequate size to play more there going forward.  While the Pistons certainly don't have a need at SG, signing Matthews with the intention of playing him at SF initially would give the organization much-needed flexibility going forward.  Should Detroit add Matthews, he would instantly start at SF, but also provide insurance on Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.  If KCP's growth stalls out in his third season, he becomes expendable, with Matthews as an immediate solution at SG.  If KCP continues to develop, Matthews stays at SF and everything is golden.  So while it may not seem that Matthews is a good fit, he's enough of a fit to make sense, and he can fill the need at SG should KCP not look like a viable long-term option.

If Wes Matthews hadn't torn his Achilles in March, he likely would have been in line for a four year deal in the $50M range.  Now with some uncertainty surrounding his ability to recover from such a serious injury, there is some talk that Matthews could seek a one-year deal, with the intention of proving his health and re-entering free agency in 2016 when the cap spikes.  That would certainly be a strategy worth pursuing for Matthews, who likely believes in his ability to return from the injury with minimal regression.  He's already stated that he expects to be ready for opening night, an indication that his recovery is on the right path.  Should he seek a one year deal, the Pistons would likely have to A) pay Matthews at a market-high rate and B) convince him they can offer him a bigger role than his other suitors.  If Matthews is seeking a long-term deal, the same considerations apply, but with more flexibility.

For the purpose of trying to construct an offseason built around adding Matthews to the fold, let's assume he signs for the aforementioned four years and $50M.  With roughly $25M in cap space this summer, signing Matthews would leave the Pistons with $13M to fill their remaining hole at PF and sign depth at SF and C.  In this case, we'll assume that the 8th pick is spent on Stanley Johnson and that the 38th pick is used on Ukrainian F Aleksandar Vezenkov.  With that being said, here's what free agency might look like if Wes Matthews is the main piece:
  • SF Wes Matthews: 4 years, $50M
  • PF Amir Johnson: 3 years, $24M
  • C Bismack Biyombo: 2 years, $8M
  • C Greg Stiemsma: 2 years, $2M
Johnson isn't the ideal fit at PF, but he's a passable starter, and Biyombo would make for an excellent backup C.  Replace Stiemsma with any other veteran's minimum C you wish; it's all the same at that salary level.  Those moves, and the two draft picks, with no Brandon Jennings trade, would leave the Pistons with the following depth chart:

Reggie Jackson
Brandon Jennings
Spencer Dinwiddie
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Jodie Meeks
Cartier Martin
Wes Matthews
Stanley Johnson
Quincy Miller
Amir Johnson
Anthony Tolliver
Aleksandar Vezenkov
Andre Drummond
Bismack Biyombo
Greg Stiemsma

I'm not sure about how viable that group is in the long run, but it looks like an Eastern Conference playoff team to me.  Anything beyond simply making the playoffs would hinge on the developments of Andre Drummond and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.  If Drummond hits his ceiling and KCP truly becomes a legitimate starter, all bets are off.  If Drummond remains above average, but never hits superstar level, and KCP stalls out, this group is in trouble.  Matthews' age makes him a tougher fit here for the reasons mentioned above.  If Drummond and KCP do develop, but it takes three years to get there, Matthews would be into his 30s and in the last year of his deal.  

I liked the idea of signing Wes Matthews more before he tore his Achilles, obviously, but if he can prove he'll be healthy before the start of the season, I would still be on board with adding him to the mix.  The injury issues, combined with Matthews being more of a SG than a SF make it somewhat of a long shot to even be a consideration in the eyes of the Pistons' front office.  That being said, adding a player with Matthews' skill-set should be the focus this summer, whether that's Matthews himself, Danny Green or Khris Middleton.  Improving the quality of the SF position should be goal number one.  Adding Wes Matthews and playing him up a spot may be the way to reach that goal.  

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