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2019-20 Wizards player evaluations: Garrison Mathews

New York Knicks v Washington Wizards
Garrison Mathews of the Washington Wizards with a logo drive.
Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Signed to a two-way contract as an undrafted free agent, swingman Garrison Mathews flashed enough in brief playing time to at least raise the possibility of providing value to the Wizards rotation over the next few seasons.

Mathews profile from four years at Lipscomb University suggested someone who could become a decent NBA player. When evaluating prospects from smaller schools, domination is essential. Players who were just okay or who were one dimensional typically don’t transition well from lower-level competition to the NBA. It’s just too big a leap.

Mathews dominated. He shot well from all over the floor, grabbed rebounds, drew fouls, was a solid play-maker, and his teams were pretty good (52-18 his final two seasons). He probably should have entered the draft after his junior year — that was his best season at Lipscomb.

In his 227 minutes this season, the shooting and drawing fouls translated to the NBA. The rest, not so much. His defense was...well...Wizards-like. He didn’t rebound or serve as a play-maker for others, but he also wasn’t put in position to do that in scant playing time.

Mathews plays with confidence and fluidity. His unorthodox shooting form — he often jumps forward when pulling the trigger from long range — led to several four-point plays this season. That forward leap is a challenge for opposing defenders because a normal close out puts them in Mathews landing zone.

One potential cautionary note on Mathews: he rated below average in 440 minutes at the G-League level. This is still a small sample size, but he hit just 30% on two-point attempts (suggesting trouble finishing inside) and didn’t draw as many fouls (4.9 free throw attempts per 100 team possessions).

If Mathews can continue shooting 40% or better from three-point range, he’ll have a role in the NBA whether he can become a decent defender or not. The better he defends, the more his role can expand.

He missed the bubble for unspecified personal reasons.

Mathews best game of the season came the Wizards 123-105 win against the Miami Heat. On that night, Mathews became just the 23rd player in NBA history to score 28 points on 9 field goal attempts. No one has done it more than once.

Mathews is a restricted free agent this offseason and it’s widely expected he’ll re-sign with the Wizards for 2020-21.