The Los Angeles Lakers have added to their wing depth, agreeing to terms on a deal with former Milwaukee Bucks veteran (and their oft-speculated free agency target) Wesley Matthews, according to multiple reports:
Free agent guard Wesley Matthews sent me this picture: pic.twitter.com/lchvFzp5zB— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) November 20, 2020
It sounds like part of the lure for Matthews may have been the opportunity to start:
For Wes Matthews, being able to step directly into a starting role with the Lakers created by the Danny Green trade to OKC was too good to pass up, per source. One instance where the compressed end of season/draft/FA period/start of next season probably didn’t help Milwaukee.— David Aldridge (@davidaldridgedc) November 20, 2020
This deal for Matthews is for more than the veteran’s minimum, which instantly panicked some Lakers fans who were concerned that it would hard cap the team, and it appears it may do so, if it’s actually the bi-annual exception it is being reported to be by multiple insiders:
Lakers getting Wesley Mathews on a one-year deal on their bi-annual exception— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) November 20, 2020
Can confirm reports that free agent guard Wes Matthews plans to sign with the Lakers, the bi-annual for one year at $3.6 million.— Brad Turner (@BA_Turner) November 20, 2020
$3.6M sounds like the Bi-Annual exception, which would hard cap the Lakers.— Yossi Gozlan (@YoggiMane) November 20, 2020
It could also be a part of either mid-level exception. We’ll wait for more details.
Either way, consider the Lakers $27.8M under the hard cap when taking AD’s impending max into consideration. https://t.co/QgHTFrY6jh pic.twitter.com/RvIns7fA3Q
However, that doesn’t mean the Lakers can’t make some moves to make this less harmful to their chances of retaining their own free agents or using the full mid-level:
The $ number reported (I believe by @ShamsCharania forgive me if I got that wrong) for Wes Matthews is BAE money - that doesn't mean they are using BAE, could be part of taxpayer MLE - but if it is BAE< Lakers would be hard-capped at ~$139 mil— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) November 20, 2020
Lakers ability to use their full MLE and pay a reasonable salary for KCP and pay Wes Matthews BAE is not really workable under a hard cap - trading away McGee would help that. That's with Markieff, Howard back via NB rights at near $3 mil in theory— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) November 20, 2020
Away from the cap sheet and on the court, Matthews instantly gives the Lakers some of the wing defense they lost by sending Danny Green out in their deal for Dennis Schröder, giving them another option to throw at opposing scorers as they look to defend their title. The team will still obviously be looking to retain Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in free agency, but for now, they are at least guaranteed to go into the season with one other capable wing defender aside from the willing-but-flawed Kyle Kuzma.
Bucks defensive rating last season with Wesley Matthews— Ali B (@ali_behpoornia) November 21, 2020
On court: 98.3 (2nd best on team)
Off court: 104.1 (2nd worst on team)
He’s also decent at the types of threes he’ll be getting in Los Angeles:
Wes Matthews attempted 236 catch and shoot threes last season with the Bucks, he converted those at a 37.7% clip. On his wide open chances, 39.8%— Alex Regla (@AlexmRegla) November 20, 2020
To compare, Danny Green shot 36.9% on his catch and shoot chances, and 35.8% on his wide open looks.
There is no such thing as a perfect signing on a one-year deal, because such players are usually available because they have flaws, but when perusing the available wings in free agency and considering price, this was probably as well as the Lakers could have reasonably done. Especially less than an hour into free agency.
Ultimately only time will tell if this was too much or too soon to lock in an agreement from Matthews, but considering how pressing of a need his skillset was for the Lakers, it was probably smarter to not wait things out too long.