Hawks HC's praise of Garrison Mathews speaks volumes about AJ Griffin

Atlanta Hawks head coach Quin Snyder's praise of Garrison Mathews could offer insight into what has gone wrong for AJ Griffin.
Minnesota Timberwolves v Atlanta Hawks
Minnesota Timberwolves v Atlanta Hawks / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages

The Atlanta Hawks outlasted an aggressive effort from the San Antonio Spurs. But the game offered one notable subplot as well. 

Typically an end-of-bench reserve, swingman Garrison Mathews saw more than 12 minutes in a game full of only meaningful moments. And it was the second time in the last three games that Mathews has seen an expanded role.

He is averaging 4.5 points on 42.8% shooting with all of his looks coming from long distance.

“Garrison had a game where he played 1:30, and it was an important 1:30,” Snyder said via the team. “Sometimes you say that, and people ... roll their eyes. But 1:30 became however many, 10 [minutes] tonight. And we need anybody who comes in the game to compete.”

The Hawks acquired Mathews -- along with big man Bruno Fernando -- from the Houston Rockets for Justin Holiday and Frank Kaminsky last season.

He made nine appearances after the deadline, six of which came after Snyder took over in late February. Three of Mathews’ six appearances this season have come in the last four games for the Hawks, who are navigating some injuries but nothing serious at Mathews’ spot.

Most notably, AJ Griffin was a DNP-CD for the sixth time this season.

It was Griffin’s first such designation in five games. The second-year wing had 10 DNPs in the regular season as a rookie, adding another six during the playoffs. Six of those in the regular season – and, obviously, the entire postseason stint – were under Snyder, whose three-point-heavy offense would seem to fit a player such as Griffin perfectly.

Perhaps the most baffling part is that Griffin was shooting well (38.3% 3P) down the stretch last season before being benched for the postseason.

But the former No. 16 overall pick out of Duke also posted a minus-9 net rating in that 15-game stretch during which Snyder was evaluating the roster. Griffin is shooting 33.3% from deep this season, and his net rating is minus-43.

Mathews is shooting 36.4% from deep. His net rating is still at minus-13, though.

Much has changed since Hawks drafted AJ Griffin

The Hawks drafted Griffin. But the front office underwent a reshuffling, with former team president Travis Schlenk stepping down and General Manager Landry Fields assuming more control. Snyder came aboard after that. Maybe he is not as good of a fit as he initially appeared.

Griffin is, of course, still young enough to turn things around. Hopefully, for his Hawks tenure's sake, Griffin turns the corner before the Hawks pursue outside reinforcements. 

In that scenario, the Hawks could view Griffin as more valuable in a trade package than on the floor and deal him away.

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