With the voting deadline yesterday and the count ongoing, I wanted to run the Statistical Doppelgänger Machine on the Wizards player with the name that sounded most like a fictional president.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have this idea 3-4 weeks ago, which means I didn’t save Thomas Bryant. Among the un-run names, Anzejs Pasecniks just didn’t quite have that West Wing feel. But one name jumped out: Garrison Mathews.
He even kinda looks like a fictional president — or at least he might in another 25-30 years. No rush.
So, despite the fact that Mathews played just 227 total minutes (a minuscule sample size), I’m going to put him through the grinder anyway.
What kind of player is Mathews? In his scant playing time, he was outlandishly efficient — a 133 offensive rating on 14.5% usage. His effective field goal percentage was 59.8%, he hit 41.3% from three-point range on 9.5 attempts per 100 team possessions, and he shot 91.2% from the free throw line on a surprisingly high number of attempts (7.0 per 100 team attempts).
The downside: that’s about all he did. He rebounded at about half the rate of an average NBA player. Ditto for assists. He was about average in steals, but he fouled a bunch — 6.6 per 100 team possessions.
He had one nutso game against the Heat, and though his overall production was below average, he showed the skills and moxie to suggest he should be able to — at minimum — carve out a role as a shooting specialist in the NBA.
With the usual caveats about resisting the urge to leap to conclusions from a small sample size, Mathews comps are a mixed bag — some quite good and others who weren’t. None of them are super-close matches, but they feel about right for the kind of player he’s likely to become if he puts in the work and improves...or if he doesn’t improve.
The Statistical Dopplegänger Machine works by comparing player across an array of statistical categories, including age and playing time, to every other player season since 1977-78. That comparison is rolled up into a single rating, which when sorted puts the “most similar” players at the top of the list.
To channel Lemony Snicket a moment, “most similar” in this case means similar production at a similar age.
Here’s the top 10:
- Sasha Vujajic, 2006-07, Los Angeles Lakers, age 22 — Not particularly impressive, but he peaked at a 91 PPA and had a couple other seasons as a useful reserve. Somehow, he played 10 seasons.
- Bill Walker, 2010-11, New York Knicks, 23 — Walker wasn’t much good. He managed one average season out of his four. Otherwise, replacement level.
- J.J. Redick, 2006-07, Orlando Magic, 22 — Redick took three seasons to figure out his role in the NBA. He just completed his 14th season, and he’s been pretty good for all of them once he cracked the code. His peak was a 152 PPA for the Clippers at age 31.
- Danilo Gallinari, 2008-09, New York Knicks, 20 — I confess that I’d forgotten Gallinari played for the Knicks. He was becoming a good player when they traded him (at age 22) in the package to get Carmelo Anthony.
- Eric Piatowski, 1995-96, Los Angeles Clippers, 25 — Good shooter with some actual dimension to his game. He played 14 seasons, five of which rated average or better. This was his second NBA season. His peak years started the following year (age 26) and lasted seven seasons.
- Davis Bertans, 2016-17, San Antonio Spurs, 24 — Who better to mentor Mathews to the degree of confidence needed to launch 38-foot fadeaways with a hand in his face? Mathews’ rookie three-point percentage: .413. For Bertans: .399.
- Fred Hoiberg, 1996-97, Indiana Pacers, 24 — Another good shooter who had a decent enough overall game to play 10 years — three of them average or better, and three more with a PPA above 80. His best was a 134 PPA with the Chicago Bulls at age 28.
- Mickael Pietrus, 2003-04, Golden State Warriors, 21 — Decent but unexceptional player. He lasted 10 seasons with a career high 86 PPA at age 24. He had four seasons where he produced at the level of a useful reserve.
- Travis Diener, 2005-06, Orlando Magic, 23 — A little point guard who’s on this list because of similar playing time, usage, shooting and lack of production anywhere else. Diener got five seasons, with a couple in Indiana where he was useful.
- Rodney Carney, 2009-10, Philadelphia 76ers, 25 — At this point, the matches are breaking down. Carney was slightly above replacement level for five seasons. He didn’t shoot well, but he sorta matches with Mathews on the lack of rebounding, assists, and blocks, as well as too much fouling.
Mathews’ closest comp from Wizards/ Bullets history is a 26-year old Cartier Martin, who was basically a replacement level player for a few years.
Or, throw back to 1985-86 for Kevin McKenna, who somehow got the green light to launch 75 threes in just 430 total minutes for the Bullets that season.