The Washington Wizards have the most unrecognizable roster in the NBA.
Besides Bradley Beal, Isaiah Thomas and Rui Hachimura, the players on the team will have no problem walking the streets of Washington, D.C. without getting recognized.
The team’s lack of name-power, if you will, was done on purpose. Tommy Sheppard and Co. understood the Wizards’ salary cap situation and built the roster with hopes of finding unknown young talent that can contribute to a winning situation two, three years down the line.
Garrison Mathews is a part of that bunch.
Having went undrafted this past summer, Mathews signed a two-way contract with the Wizards, and will split his playing time with the Go-Go, but given how well he played in pre-season, it wouldn’t be surprising if the front office carves out an actual roster spot for him on the main roster.
Washington lost Otto Porter, Tomas Satoransky, Jeff Green, and Trevor Ariza within the span of a few months, and with those departures went reliable shooting. Davis Bertans was the only player known for his shooting that the team added in the off-season, so others, like Thomas Bryant, were expected to become reliable from deep.
The Wizards finished preseason with 88 made 3-point shots — the second most in the NBA, trailing only the Houston Rockets.
Shooting was a serious concern before preseason (and really, before the games count, it remains a concern), but the exhibition games should soothe some of the anxiety about the team’s lack of spacing.
Mathews made an impressive 42 percent of his 3-point shots — and not all of them were stand-still, catch-and-shoot jumpers. Mathews moved well without the ball and didn’t hesitate to fire away with defenders in his face. His release is Kyle Korver-like — it’s almost as if he’s shooting from memory. He doesn’t need a ton of space to get his shot off and does a solid job moving without the ball.
As our own Osman Baig pointed out, it’s hard to deny a player a roster spot when they specialize in a certain aspect of the game — and they’re that good at it. Last year, Joe Harris — another unheralded player out of college — led the NBA in 3-point percentage, making 47 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. Players like Harris, Danny Green and even someone like Bertans won’t get as much fanfare as others, but they get as much attention on the scouting report because they’re capable of making an instant-impact.
If teams can re-select the 2014 NBA Draft, it’s likely Harris would go much higher than the 33rd overall pick. A good chunk of the talent picked ahead of him — players who supposedly had more “upside,” like James Young, for instance — are now playing overseas. Teams failed to recognize that Harris was a specialist — someone who can carve out a role for himself on all 30 NBA teams.
Mathews is an inch taller than Harris and his weaknesses (creating off the dribble) are rather irrelevant if he’s sharing the court with, say, Beal.
This entire season is built on finding diamonds in the rough — kind of like how the team did with Bryant last year. Mathews will never make an All-Star team, but he’s a knock-down shooter, and there’s room for those types on a roster. Washington will place an emphasis on player development, so we could see Mathews get more playing time in D.C. than originally anticipated — and when he’s not with the main roster, he’ll get plenty of shots up with the Go-Go.