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Rockets’ hunt for a wing could lead them to Wesley Matthews

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If Brandon Knight and first-round pick don’t net a wing on the trade market, Wesley Matthews as a buyout candidate makes too much sense.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

In the days since Daryl Morey’s proclamation that the Rockets’ wing depth needs addressing, many a report has surfaced as to how they might fill that void.

First, the Rockets reportedly called the Grizzlies about offloading Brandon Knight’s contract with a first-round pick in exchange for a wing, before offering a similar deal to Cleveland in exchange for Alec Burks.

However, the most intriguing report that has surfaced in the past few days links the Rockets with buyout candidate Wesley Matthews, who was recently acquired by the New York Knicks in their all-or-nothing play for this summer.

While there is certainly a possibility the Knicks find a trade partner for Matthews’ expiring contract before the deadline, that possibility is slimmer than one may expect since most teams who covet him are already deep into the tax, making it hard to structure a trade for Matthews’ inflated $18.6 million salary. For that reason, multiple contenders are already posturing to land the eleven-year veteran after the trade market closes. Safe to say, this isn’t your typical buyout candidate.

Luckily for Rockets’ fans, Houston has already revitalized two players coming off buyouts, quite possibly has the largest need for Matthews’ services, and most importantly, still has some of their taxpayer mid-level exception remaining from their tight-pocketed offseason, giving them an advantage over most other reported suitors.

Perhaps even more important, however, is that if Matthews wants to regain his standing as a positive impact player before hitting free agency, Houston is the place to do it.

In Dallas, Matthews consistently performed at slightly below league average efficiency, largely based on a smorgasbord of a shot distribution that failed to play to his strengths. Despite shooting being his calling card, Matthews’ 56 percent three-point rate would be one of the lowest on the team if he joined the Rockets.

Per Synergy Sports tracking data, so far this season, almost 11 percent of Matthews’ possessions have been pick-and-rolls despite falling in the bottom 10 percent of the league in efficiency as a pick-and-roll ball handler. Also, Matthews is posting up on a 2005-esque 14 percent of his possessions. If the frequency of either of those play types was reduced in favor of the catch and shoot jumpers that Rockets’ wings get more of than anywhere in the league— for which Matthews averages 1.206 points per possession, good for the 81st percentile— his efficiency would benefit greatly.

Additionally, although Matthews isn’t the defensive stopper he once was, just last season Matthews finished in the 89th percentile for isolation defense, making him a natural fit for Mike D’Antoni’s switch-heavy scheme.

Lastly, despite what Matthews’ 6’5” stature suggests, the positional redundancy with James Harden, Chris Paul, Eric Gordon, and Austin Rivers is far smaller than expected, as in recent years Matthews has transitioned to predominantly a small forward. So should the Rockets manage to acquire Matthews, he’d likely be taking minutes away from Gerald Green, James Ennis, and Gary Clark— who are all better served in reduced roles anyways.

He’s not Trevor Ariza, but the Rockets’ season-long wing issues might be solved as early as this weekend.