Boston Celtics: The shooter the Cs need to pick up in free agency

Boston Celtics Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
Boston Celtics Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports /

The Boston Celtics have done a great job working around the parameters of their own long-term goals this offseason, remaining financially stable for the summer of 2022 while also remaining a competitive team in a stacked Eastern Conference.

Moving off Kemba Walker’s contract, which was deemed untradable after the OKC Thunder bought him out, and fixing the Cs’ lack of versatility in their center rotation by bringing in Al Horford and Enes Kanter were great moves.

Additionally, Brad Stevens repaired the C’s backcourt holes, adding Dennis Schroder and Josh Richardson to give them more size and ancillary passing.

It’s hard to find more negatives than positives to take away from the Boston Celtics’ offseason, but even so, their roster remains unpolished in certain areas. Given their criteria, that’s okay, but since there are still guys on the market that can help the Celts, it’s worth noting they should be brought in.

One of those guys is Garrison Matthews. The 24-year-old marksman was recently let go by the Washington Wizards in restricted free agency, making him an unrestricted free agent coming off a minimum deal.

Let’s address Matthews’ skill sets and why the Boston Celtics should sign him to a short-term deal.

Garrison Matthews is coming off a turbulent season with the Washington Wizards, sustaining his high level of play with an uptick in load but still receiving DNP’s from Scott Brooks. The swingman out of Lipscomb averaged an impressive 9.1 points per 75 possessions on 63TS%, with the 3-ball as the staple of his offense.

Matthews came into free agency as one of the most talented shooters on the open market, hitting 39% on 244 career three-pointers and shooting 48% from the corner this past season. His quick release and solid footwork make him a threat to slower defenses. His higher-level handle helps him punish overly aggressive defenders with a simple escape dribble into a pull-up three where he shoots 37%. This shooting versatility is why Shot Quality ranked him in the 99th percentile in their Shot Quality points per possession metric.

His play type data supports his box score statistics, ranking 96th percentile on spot-ups, 97th percentile on handoffs, and 80th percentile in transition. He’s a willing hustler, sprinting around screens to create open lanes for his teammates or crashing the glass to develop second-chance points. In general, he’s the kind of guy you want to have on the court next to your star players.

That hypothesis is backed by PBP’s on/off player statistics, marking that Bradley Beal’s true shooting percentage dipped from 61% to 58% when Matthews was off the floor. Matthews shooting provided more spacing in the half-court for Beal to create and put a strain on opposing defenses, knowing they couldn’t help off of Matthews without giving up a high-percentage 3-pointer.

Inside the arc, Matthews shot 42% from midrange and 88% from the line, leading to the obvious conclusion that his three-point shooting is very much accurate. Most of his midrange looks came from escape dribbles and side-steps to free up space for his quick release, occasionally flashing some light shot-creation potential but nothing worth betting on. His free throw attempts came from punishing an overaggressive defender by putting the ball up before they rammed into him.

Matthews’ offensive shortcomings have come within his confined role over the past two years. If he were to sign with the Boston Celtics, he would be looking at a much higher minute count than he got with the Washington Wizards, and therefore a high offensive load.

The question is, can Matthews uphold his percentages while increasing his volume? Are his finishing numbers sustainable, and can the Cs trust his shot selection with more passes coming his way? The Celtics themselves can only answer those questions, but it’s something to think about as Matthews awaits to be signed.

Moving onto his passing, there isn’t much to say. He’s no Devin Booker, but he’s not a ball-stopper either. Matthews was a willing extra passer and even flashed some drive-and-kicks and dump-offs on his rare drives to the rim. His low possession time of 0.3 seconds will likely increase with the Boston Celtics.

Still, the fact that he could be productive with such strict parameters means he’s unlikely to turn into 2018-19 Terry Rozier or Marcus Morris.

Overall, Matthews can come in and provide elite perimeter shooting for the Boston Celtics and would do nothing more than knock down the open looks the Jays will generate for him. His shooting would provide high-level spacing and encourage more player and ball movement like Ime Udoka has said he wants.

If Matthews is willing to take another minimum, the Boston Celtics need to do everything in their power to open up a roster spot for the young shooter.

The good and bad of Garrison Matthews’ defense:

Garrison Matthews was arguably the Wizards’ best wing defender after Isaac Bonga went down. He possesses good size for a wing, standing at six-foot-five, 215 lbs with significant upper body strength and good lateral quickness.

These physical tools combined with his high IQ allow him to pick up craftier wings in isolation and make timely plays off the ball. He average two deflections and one steal per-36 minutes last season, meaning he can be a capable defensive contributor in a larger sample size.

Since the Boston Celtics already employ multiple high-level wing defenders in the Jays and Josh Richardson, it’s only a plus that Matthews is positive on the defensive end.

Ultimately Matthews’ potential deal with the Boston Celtics will come down to a couple of things.

For one, Brad Stevens needs to decide whether or not he is willing to rely on Aaron Nesmith and Sam Hauser to carry the bulk of the Boston Celtics’ movement shooting load. The two are capable shooters, but they’re also relatively young and inexperienced. Burdening them with a high shooting load may be a slippery slope, and one Stevens may not want to risk slipping on.

The other factor that the Celts will need to consider is if Romeo Langford is worth a roster spot at this point. He’s in his third season and has flashed potential but has been too injured too often to polish his game.

Langford projects to be on the fringe of The Cs’ rotation, meaning this will be another season where he rides the bench and most likely gets injured again playing in garbage time.

The Boston Celtics have to ask themselves if it’s worth shopping or Langford to sign Matthews or if Langford’s upside is too tremendous to sell on this early.

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