With Danny Green on his way to the Oklahoma City Thunder as a part of the reported Dennis Schröder trade, the Los Angeles Lakers have a hole to fill at shooting guard. While the hope is that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will move into that role, he, like Rajon Rondo, is expected to opt out of his contract and pursue a long-term, big money deal in free agency. In other words, they don’t know if they can count on KCP just yet.
Even if KCP is brought back with the promise of a starting job, there’s no guarantee that it will be at shooting guard. Remember: Caldwell-Pope was the Lakers’ starting point guard in the Orlando bubble. Granted, it was only because Avery Bradley was unavailable, but he showed he’s more than capable of playing that role.
For all of those reasons and more, the Lakers will pursue some additional depth at shooting guard in free agency, and the name that is near the top of their list is Wesley Matthews, according to Marc Stein of The New York Times:
More on how the Lakers' roster shapes up for their forthcoming title defense:— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) November 15, 2020
League sources say they have interest in trying to sign Wesley Matthews away from Milwaukee to replace Green
The Lakers reportedly had interest in another one of Milwaukee’s guards, but that appears to be off of the table now:
The Lakers had explored a deal for Milwaukee’s Eric Bledsoe, league sources told @SInow. A Schroder trade would remove that from consideration. If completed, Lakers would be armed with a young, versatile guard coming off his most complete NBA season.— Chris Mannix (@SIChrisMannix) November 15, 2020
For the last decade, Matthews has made a living by playing defense at a high level and knocking down 3-point shots, not unlike Green. Those same attributes made him a target of the Milwaukee Bucks last summer, and because of Matthews’ age (34) and injury history, they were able to sign him for the veteran’s minimum. That contract turned out to be a bargain for Milwaukee.
Matthews started every game he was available for last season and averaged 7.4 points per on 39.6% shooting from the field, including 36.4% shooting from behind the arc. Those numbers might not be awe-inspiring — especially when you consider Green shot 36.7% from 3-point range last season — but they’re solid, which is the best way to describe Matthews: solid. That’s especially true on the defensive end.
In the 1,635 minutes that Matthews was on the floor for the Bucks last season, they posted a defensive rating a defensive rating of 98.3. Giannis Antetokounmpo was the only Bucks player to post a better defensive rating (97.4) than Matthews last season. He was also the only player to post a better point differential (-7.7) on that end. He was basically the Bucks’ Danny Green, except he didn’t come into the season with the expectations Green had.
There will be a handful of other bargain bin shooting guards on the market, including, but not limited to, Kent Bazemore, Alec Burks, E’Twaun Moore and Garrett Temple, but there’s not one player that would be a better replacement for Green than Matthews — at least not for the veteran’s minimum. If the Lakers can convince Matthews to leave Milwaukee for Los Angeles, the Schröder will go from good to great.