January 31, 2019
Sixers head coach Brett Brown has said publicly that he'd like a rim protector and a wing defender for Philadelphia's playoff push. In a roundabout way, the Knicks' insane trade of Kristaps Porzingis might end up providing them an opportunity to go get one.
According to reports from all across the NBA universe, the Knicks will send Porzingis (along with some bad contracts) to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Dennis Smith Jr., DeAndre Jordan, and Wesley Matthews, the latter two of whom are on expiring contracts. Picks will be involved too, the details of which haven't been reported yet, but the latter two players are of some importance to the Sixers.
As luck would have it, Matthews and Jordan are both on expiring deals, and their change of scenery could help Philadelphia. The Mavericks were probably not in a rush to jettison rotation players this season, as they begin to build around Luka Doncic, their star rookie who looks like he has the makings of a multiple-time All-Star.
In New York, their fate could be much different. The Knicks are clearly in the midst of a rebuilding year, and by trading their most valuable (albeit, injured) long-term player for expiring contracts and a point guard they could have drafted in the first place, they're sending a clear message — we're clearing out the decks and tanking, all in preparation for a big push in free agency this summer.
That turns both Matthews and Jordan into buyout candidates, because both guys can help a rotation this season.
Jordan fits in the rim protector category the Sixers want to fill, but he feels like an unlikely guy to take a buyout and agree to come to Philadelphia just to be a backup center to Embiid. Jordan is good at the things he does, but he doesn't offer frontcourt utility in the way someone like Jonah Bolden does, and his physical slip has impacted his game as well.
The more intriguing figure from a Philadelphia perspective is Matthews, who may have been bought out in Dallas to begin with. Barring someone trading for him before the trade deadline, he's a prime candidate to move on from the Knicks and latch on elsewhere, and there's no better marriage he'll find than the Sixers.
Matthews is not the same player he used to be prior to a devastating Achilles tear, but he checks a few boxes the Sixers need filled. He's a career 38 percent shooter from three, and at 6-foot-5, he offers enough size to defend a couple different positions on the wing. Matthews' athleticism is not the same as it once was, but he has always been renowned for his strength, which is why part of his game back in the day was built around scoring from the high post, hitting jumpers after using his body to create enough separation for the shot.
His efficiency has dropped over the years overall, but on a Sixers team filled with ball-dominant offensive players, Matthews could focus on catch-and-shoot duties even more than he does already. This season in Dallas, 40.9 percent of Matthews' total attempts have been catch-and-shoot threes, and he has made 40.6 percent of those, per the NBA's stats database. That's an excellent number, and the Sixers can always use more rotation players with that sort of ability.
Defensively, Matthews has definitely slipped, but if you look at him as the guy filling the Belinelli role from last season, Matthews is a huge upgrade on that end, with shooting credentials to boot.
As an added bonus, he has some connection to one of the franchise's cornerstone players. Jimmy Butler's freshman year at Marquette actually overlapped with Matthews' final collegiate season, with Butler serving as a role player to Matthews' senior leader. The two men are different people and players today, but it would give Butler someone on the team with whom he has history, and provide the team with a guy who knows some of what makes Butler tick.
Philadelphia is interested in Matthews should he make it to the buyout market, multiple sources confirmed to PhillyVoice on Thursday afternoon. His current, pre-buyout salary makes him cost-prohibitive to trade for, but the Sixers have minutes free in the rotation, a chance to compete in the playoffs, and have their mid-level exception available to offer to potential candidates on the buyout market.
The Sixers may not be involved in any blockbusters between now and next Thursday, but they can certainly benefit from all the action around them.
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