As usual, the Pacers flew relatively under-the-radar during NBA trade season, but their biggest addition came in the form of a free agent signing.
Just over a week ago, Wesley Matthews was dealt to the Knicks in one of the biggest trades of the season thus far. Matthews had his contract bought out by the Knicks a couple days later, and the Pacers jumped at the chance to grab him off the market.
Ever since Victor Oladipo went down, the Pacers have been lacking another reliable scorer to go along with Bojan Bogdanovic, Myles Turner, and Domantas Sabonis. In Matthews, Kevin Pritchard and company are getting just that, plus a little defense to go with it.
Not counting their bombarding of the Lakers on Tuesday night, the Pacers had been struggling from downtown. Darren Collison was the most consistent 3-point shooter on the team (about 42 percent this season), while Bogdanovic is the guy who can get hot at any time. With Wes, Nate McMillan has another wing who can get going from behind the arc to throw at opposing defenses. In his 3 ½ seasons with the Mavs, Matthews was a 37 percent shooter from 3-point range. If Doug McDermott can start heating up, he and Matthews will be a nice combo to roll out on the wings.
During his days with the Trail Blazers, Wes was known as a solid defender as well. He was a key part of Portland’s system and was often tasked with guarding primary scorers like DeMar DeRozan and James Harden. Head coach Terry Stotts used him as a textbook “3 and D” guy, similar to how Houston used Trevor Ariza these past few seasons. Matthews was also a vital part of the Portland offense, a reliable third option in the pecking order behind LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard.
Personally, I love the move for the Pacers. It came a little bit after Pritchard made a deal with Houston for Nik Stauskas, Wade Baldwin, and a couple of second rounders, only to cut Stauskas and Baldwin shortly after. That one was kind of a head-scratcher for me, but Pritchard made up for it with the Matthews pickup. I really feel like Wes will fit in seamlessly with Indy, especially if Tyreke Evans can start playing like he’s shown he’s capable of. I can see it already; Sabonis gets the dish from Tyreke, gets doubled, but kicks it out to Holiday, who then passes off to Wes for the trey. Beautiful.
In the wake of players like Markelle Fultz, Marc Gasol, Tobias Harris, and Nikola Mirotic moving on to different squads, the Matthews signing went a bit unnoticed. If you’re a Pacers fan, though, you noticed–and odds are, you’re loving it.