Our Washington Wizards player evaluation series continues with Garrison Mathews.
How did Mathews perform last season?
In 64 appearances (and 24 starts), Mathews scored 5.5 points per game in about 16 minutes per game. His total per game numbers nearly match his rookie season, where he averaged 5.4 ppg, but he also played fewer games and averaged fewer minutes.
Mathews’ best performance this season was on Jan. 9, 2021 when he scored 22 points on 6-of-12 shooting.
Three point shooting efficiency and hustle plays are the two things Mathews will be known for with the Wizards this season.
With his three point shooting, Mathews shot 38.4 percent and made about 1.2 threes a game. His efficiency was down a little from his rookie season, but Mathews played a bit more this season than last. He was also better with the basketball in his hands, with a turnover percentage of just 3.5 percent, down from 10.1 percent in 2019-20. That said, this figure may be skewed because Mathews played a significant number of his possessions with Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal, both of whom have usage ratings over 30 percent. Mathews’ usage dropped to 11.5 percent from 14.5 percent last season.
With hustle plays, Mathews drew 13 charges, tied for 14th in the NBA. He was also 9th among the NBA’s better charge drawers per game with 0.2 among players who played at least 15 minutes per game in at least 50 appearances. A charge isn’t going to put points on the scoreboard in and of itself. But it is going to give the offense another possession which can incrementally help a team win.
Ultimately, his shooting efficiency and lack of turnovers helped give Mathews a PPA rating of 66 this season, tied with Ish Smith and better than bigger names on the Wizards like first round pick Deni Avdija. According to our own Kevin Broom, the PPA, or Player Production Average scores of above 45 are those who are better than “replacement level players.” In other words, Mathews is showing that he belongs on an NBA roster, all things considered.
Mathews’ time declined as the season went on, especially in the last month of the season when the Wizards had their strong playoff push. Washington scored 5.6 points per 100 possessions less with him on the floor than on it, according to Cleaning the Glass. That said, Mathews also tended to play more minutes during the Wizards worst stretches, in late January after a team-wide coronavirus outbreak and in early April when they started off the month with three consecutive losses, before that late playoff push.
The only other active Wizards player whose on/off numbers were worse was Chandler Hutchison (a differential of -18.0).
What’s next for Mathews?
Mathews will be a free agent in the 2021-22 season after being on a two-way contract for his first two NBA seasons. Given the special circumstances around this season regarding the coronavirus pandemic, Mathews received more playing time than he otherwise would have.
Washington could re-sign Mathews to another two-way contract, but I think it’s better for them to either sign him to a new contract if they decide to retain him next season.