The Utah Jazz have signed guard Raja Bell , who was with the team from 2003-2005, to a three-year contract worth $10 million and, according to Ross Siler of the Salt Lake City Tribune , “have notified Wesley Matthews reps they won’t match [the] offer” given to him by the Portland Trail Blazers worth $34 million over five years .
Barring a failed physical by Bell, or some drastic change of heart by either the Jazz or the Blazers, the 23-year old formerly un-drafted guard will rake in the dough from the Northwest’s best.
As I have said before, I like the player, but not the terms of the contract. Unless he takes the starting role away from Nicolas Batum , which I highly doubt, the Blazers will be paying him nearly $7 million to come off the bench and play 20 or so minutes a night.
Still, with his talents, he could bring a lot to the table. From what I have seen of him, he’s a stopper on defense and, offensively, is a rim-happy version of the much-beloved former Blazer Martell Webster . He has tamed the likes of Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony –in the playoffs no less–and provided the Jazz with a tremendous amount of versatility.
He can play both shooting guard and small forward, is strong, disciplined, can spread the floor with a respectable outside jumper, and has aggressiveness no other Blazer beside Jerryd Bayless has. He was a four-year player at Marquette, so it is not surprising that he’s wise beyond his years.
He was named a starter by head coach Jerry Sloan during the latter part of the season and stuck there into the playoffs, which speaks to his talent and intelligence.
The team’s Director of NBA Scouting, Mike Born, was interviewed by Ben Golliver of Blazersedge , and had this to say about Matthews:
“He has a chance to be a really good defender. He’s a great kid, a great worker, a great teammate. Really well liked. Obviously for him playing for the two coaches he’s played for — at Marquette and then playing for Coach Sloan — that says a lot about him as a player and as a person.
We think he’s got a chance to be a really good player for us and to be a really good fit for our culture. I think people will really like him as a person as well.”
Aside from giving Brandon Roy or Batum a day off, he won’t start unless injuries hit for the second year in a row. They needed a guy with his ability and his character, as Born points out, so his signing is a smart one. They needed a more dependable player on the wing than Rudy Fernandez. They needed a slasher, someone who can get to the line with regularity. He is a vibrant, athletic, offensively-gifted defensive-stalwart. What’s not to like?
Financially, passing up on Matthews is a intelligent decision by the Jazz. But they lose a 23-year old multi-talented wing who played in all 82 games last season and replace him with a 33-year old guard who played managed to appear in just six for the Charlotte Bobcats and Golden State Warriors.
They paid $24 million less to sign him, a player who made a name for himself in Phoenix a couple of years back. Like Matthews, he to is known as a defensive-wiz, most notably famous for his battles with Bryant.
He’s a deadly three-point shooter, with a career 41 percent clip from beyond the arc, so coupled with his defensive abilities he may be able to pick up the slack for the losses of both Matthews and Kyle Korver .
Portland probably could have signed Bell if they chose to. But, to fittingly mesh with their roster, they decided to go young. Matthews will do a lot of good for the Blazers, and though the financial and yearly commitment is ridiculous for such an unproven player, I’m very happy to see him join the team.