Celtics’ ‘Biggest Regret’ Involves 25-Year-Old Sharpshooter

Garrison Mathews of the Houston Rockets

Getty Garrison Mathews of the Houston Rockets, who was cut by the Boston Celtics before the season began.

Brad Stevens did a wonderful job constructing the current Boston Celtics roster. The Celtics’ president of basketball operations handed Marcus Smart and Robert Williams extensions, traded for Al Horford and added Derrick White and Daniel Theis at the trade deadline.

The Celtics, playing in their first NBA Finals since 2010, are now just four wins away from raising their 18th banner. There probably isn’t much Stevens should have done differently, but one move stands out as regrettable in the eyes of Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley.

In a May 31 opinion piece, Buckley explored each NBA team’s “biggest regret” of the 2021-22 season.

The Celtics’ worst blunder of the season was letting Houston Rockets forward Garrison Mathews walk, rather than finding a roster spot for him, Buckley wrote.

Days before the season began, the Celtics waived Mathews, who went on to have a breakout season in Houston. However, according to Jared Weiss of The Athletic, letting Mathews go wasn’t part of Stevens’ original plan.

Celtics Offered Mathews Spot

According to Weiss’ story on October 16, Stevens offered Boston’s second two-way spot to Mathews, who declined to take it. Instead, Mathews chose to explore other opportunities in hopes of earning a guaranteed spot elsewhere.

“President of basketball operations Brad Stevens will continue to search for a player to fill the team’s second two-way slot, which remains vacant after the final camp cuts,” Weiss wrote. “Mathews turned down the two-way spot, as he is still holding out hope for a full NBA deal elsewhere, per sources. Mathews returned home to Nashville and will assess other opportunities around the league but does not plan to head overseas.”

Mathews ended up signing a two-way deal with the Rockets, but in Houston he was able to earn playing time. In fact, he played so well that the team handed him a shiny new four-year contract. He averaged 10 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1 assist on 36% shooting from three-point range.

Buckley pointed out that the Celtics could have used a shooter like Mathews because that was one of their areas of need.

Mathews Would Have Given Celtics ‘Breathing Room’

The Celtics were such a streaky shooting team during the regular season that when their scorers went cold, the team really suffered. Those players began to turn around their fortunes toward the end of the season, but Mathews’ consistent shooting would have helped during cold streaks.

“The Celtics were squeezed for spacing throughout the season,” Buckley wrote. “Garrison Mathews could have provided more breathing room had Boston not waived him a week before the campaign tipped.”

While Mathews only shot around league average from deep, his percentage on the volume of threes he took would have ranked him among Boston’s best shooters.

“He finished the season with 139 threes and a 36 percent connection rate. Those numbers would’ve put Mathews third on the Shamrocks in makes and third in accuracy among their volume shooters,” Buckley wrote.

It’s unlikely that Mathews would have been afforded the same freedom to shoot in Boston that he was in Houston. Nevertheless, his three-point shot-making would have been a useful tool for Ime Udoka and the Celtics.

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