Dallas Mavericks wing Wesley Matthews and big man Nerlens Noel are upcoming unrestricted free agents who may get traded before the Feb. 8 deadline.
As the Dunc’d On NBA Podcast noted, both players could fit with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Matthews, 31, would be an interesting shooting addition to Cleveland’s bench unit. Noel, 23, doesn’t currently have much trade value, but he’s a defensive big man and it’s worth noting he shares an agent with LeBron James.
Is it possible the two teams could work out a deal if the Cavs are willing to give up JR Smith? The guard has not played well alongside James so far this season. Meanwhile, Matthews is attractive for a contender since he plays solid perimeter defense and can guard elite wing scorers that the Cavs are bound to face in the postseason.
As an offensive player, Matthews could create space for the Cavs considering the veteran sits behind only Jayson Tatum and Tobias Harris for the most points per possession (1.17 PPP) on spot-up plays. No team has scored more efficiently on this play type than the Cavaliers.
Matthews is shooting 39.7 percent on catch-and-shoot attempts from long distance, which is sixth-best in the league among those with as many opportunities. Cleveland ranks Top 5 in the frequency of this shot type.
Meanwhile, he is shooting 12-for-22 (54.5 percent) on three-point attempts from the right corner, which is the second-best in the league when filtering the players who have taken at least as many attempts. Only two teams have taken more three-point attempts from the right-corner per game so far this season.
His midrange game is also impressive, as his accuracy (48.5 percent) ranks Top 10 among those with at least as many opportunities from between 16 feet and 24 feet of the basket. The Cavaliers currently have the fourth-worst field-goal percentage from this zone.
For the Mavericks, getting rid of Matthews could help Dallas get a better draft pick to add to their developing young core.
Would the front office in Cleveland also be willing to buy low on Noel, who is currently recovering from a thumb injury and expected to be out until next month, as part of the deal?
Noel has a no-trade clause but was hardly in the rotation for Dallas even before his injury.
If the Cavaliers brought in both Matthews and Noel, they could, in turn, offer Channing Frye (to alleviate the luxury tax penalty) as well as Cedi Osman (as a way to entice the Mavericks) and a draft pick in a deal.
This would save the team total of $1.8 million in cap space, which is especially important because of the luxury tax penalties. But note that Noel provides more than just someone to save money.
The 6-foot-11 big man was one of the best players at his position when his team ran a transition offense. During his 2015-16 campaign, the players who had the best field goal percentage and effective field goal percentage among those with many chances in transition were Noel and James.
So far this season, Cleveland has executed transition plays more often than all but five teams in the NBA.
It’s also worth noting that Noel is still just 23 years old and he’s just two years removed from averaging 11.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.5 blocks, while shooting 52.1 percent from the field. And his career averages remain an impressive 9.5 points (on 51.2 percent shooting), 7.2 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.4 blocks in 26.3 minutes.
Noel is a young, strong defender who would also fit in with the team offensively. And, as previously mentioned, Matthews is a scoring guard who could help provide a spark off the bench.