You Can't Overpay For A Championship
You'll never hear an athlete answer a question more frankly than Wesley Matthews did when asked about the perception that the Trail Blazers overpaid for his services. He could have easily said the notion was ridiculous, using some of the contracts handed out this off-season to other free agents as examples. Instead, Matthews answered the question in the most honest way anyone could when asked about what the future holds.
"So people that say I'm overpaid, I might be," said Matthews. "We never know."
Which is true. Maybe he's underpaid. We never know. We don't ever know what's going to happen and life certainly is not promised. You have to take people at their word assuming they've never given you any reason to do otherwise, so when Matthews says he's not doing it for the money, there's no reason to think he's not being anything other than sincere.
"A lot of people respected what I did because of how hard I played, how hard I went," said Matthews. "That wasn't to get a big contract like this. This big contract helps my family out. I'm alright as long as I can play this game."
Matthews will have plenty of opportunity to do just that, despite what presently looks like a logjam at two-guard. Going from being an undrafted free agent to a starting wing for a team like the Utah Jazz doesn't happen through luck. Are the traits that got him playing time in Salt Lake going to recede now that he's got a long-term contract in Portland? We never know, but those who have studied who he is as a person and player would argue otherwise.
"We knew the intel on his from college and even with Utah was he brings it every day in practice, he brings it every day in games," said Mike Born, Portland's director of NBA scouting. "When Chad (Buchanan) and Nate (McMillan) and myself met with him and his agent we sort of talked about that. You just get the impression from him that it's really important that he's out there competing, like he loves to play, he loves to compete."
But the Trail Blazers didn't make Matthews an offer the Jazz had to refuse simply based off of the player he is now. They've made an investment for the same reasons a stock broker does, because they believe they'll see that investment mature into something bigger than it was before.
"Hopefully moving forward we would love to see him become a leader for us and a leader on the defensive end," said Born, "where it's like 'Look, I'm coming to work everyday. I'm practicing hard, I'm working hard in the game, I'd taking a ton of pride in my defense.' I think when you have someone that is doing it, I think there's a confidence that comes along with that. People will listen to him if he's calling people out on the defensive end. I think he could potentially be a guy who could have a voice like that. What's the value of that? I think we felt like there's a tremendous amount of value in that."
The impact that Matthews has on the Trail Blazers might not be easily quantified. He might be the leader Born is hoping he can be. He might be the wing defender that, when paired with Nicolas Batum, gives the Trail Blazers the most stifling backcourt in the NBA. And he might end up being just a serviceable player off the bench. We never know.
But it doesn't much matter. Success won't be measured in some kind of ratio pitting statistics against salary. It will only be measure in championships. If he never makes an all-defensive team, let alone an all-star team, but if he contributes to Portland winning their second NBA title, people will look back and laugh at the notion that Matthews was overpaid.
Said Born: "At the end of the day if he helps us and he's a piece to helping us win more games and becoming a contender and hopefully someday having a chance to play for a championship, is the money we spent on him worth that? We think it is."