Not Paolo, Jabari, or Jaden: The Pacers hit the jackpot in the 2022 NBA Draft

Bennedict Mathurin - Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Bennedict Mathurin - Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports /

When the sixth-overall pick went to the Indiana Pacers in the lottery, fans were definitely not expecting the franchise to land a potential superstar, especially with the 2022 NBA Draft pegged to be quite the top-heavy class. Beyond the consensus top four (Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith, and Jaden Ivey), draft forecasts were not too positive on a potential franchise-changer beneath them.

However, a week into the season, those predictions are starting to seem off. With Bennedict Mathurin translating a fiery preseason into a superb start to his official NBA career, the Pacers appear to have hit the jackpot.

The Indiana Pacers hit the jackpot with Bennedict Mathurin

The Indiana Pacers have only managed to win one out of their first three games, but Mathurin’s eye-popping play as a rookie is starting to garner a lot of attention from NBA circles. Despite only coming off the bench so far, the Arizona product is averaging 24 points, 6.3 rebounds, and a couple of assists in just 28.7 minutes per game on a mind-boggling 52.1 percent shooting from the floor, including a ludicrous 52.4 percent conversion rate on his seven three-point tries per contest.

Mathurin has already set the Pacers franchise record for most points by a rookie in his first three games. More impressively, since 1980, only four rookies in NBA history have scored more in their first three outings.

Among all first-year players, Mathurin leads his class in scoring, with Banchero just a tad beneath him, though the first-overall pick has logged 5.4 more minutes per game than him. No one has converted more triples than him among his peers during that three-game span, while he is fourth in field goal percentage among rookie regulars.

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Beyond the numbers though, Mathurin looks poised to be a perennial All-Star in the league, a figure who can lead the Pacers to the elusive contender status they’ve been seeking for years. Alongside Tyrese Haliburton, the rookie has already managed to gain the trust of the coaching staff and the players as one of, if not the primary option for the Blue and Gold in scoring.

The fear of Mathurin regressing to the proverbial mean is an appropriate one, but it’s definitely not as imminent as one might think. After all, the Pacers still have him operating off the bench. Who knows how much better he can fare if he can start contests with the rhythm of the game right on his heels?

Fortunately, after years of stark hit-and-misses, the Indiana Pacers struck gold in the draft. But what the franchise got is not the typical good pick or a high-upside prospect, but a franchise cornerstone who is ready to shine now and dazzle even more for years to come in the Circle City.

After all, as Bennedict Mathurin himself said, even LeBron may have to prove that he’s better than him.

Next. Two mock B/R trades have the Pacers turning a backup into gold. dark