Indiana Pacers: Bennedict Mathurin has to overcome his biggest weakness

Bennedict Mathurin, Indiana Pacers (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)
Bennedict Mathurin, Indiana Pacers (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images) /

The Indiana Pacers made some history for themselves nabbing their highest draft selection in over three decades last summer. And as if that’s not enough, the team easily nailed their pick as Bennedict Mathurin has turned heads with his play for the Blue and Gold — the rookie has already cemented himself as the inarguable second-best freshman so far.

Mathurin has been a total standout in Year 1 — first in total points among rookies, second in points per game, and tied for third in total three-pointers made. What’s most impressive is that he has been logging these numbers despite coming off the bench in 42 out of 48 games so far and averaging just 28.3 minutes per contest, which is sixth among his peers.

The rookie sensation’s play this season has clearly been one of the main driving forces behind Indiana’s unexpected start to their campaign. However, the team’s magic is starting to fade recently — with star guard Tyrese Haliburton shelved due to injury, the Pacers have lost seven straight and have fallen from sixth to ninth place in the East.

Bennedict Mathurin has to overcome his biggest weakness for the Indiana Pacers to have more success for the meantime

Of course, as a rookie, Mathurin is not expected to be eclectically good in all areas of the game. However, his passing has been pretty below average so far and the numbers interject just that. Despite enjoying significant court time on a nightly basis — notwithstanding Rick Carlisle’s short leash on him — the rookie has only tallied 1.4 assists while committing 1.9 turnovers per outing.

Mathurin was never touted as a playmaker, and with Haliburton, fellow rookie Andrew Nembhard, and veteran TJ McConnell rounding out the point guard position, the team doesn’t really need him to be a brilliant passer in his first season.

Haliburton’s absence, however, has magnified Mathurin’s sheer lack of passing chops — a gaping hole exploited by most teams. With the rookie logging the highest  usage rate on the team, defenders have been more than happy with him taking difficult shots if it means shutting down passing lanes and subsequently, more efficient shots.

Mathurin’s uncanny skill in converting tough shots has been undeniable, but when his shots aren’t falling and defenders are smart to contest him around the rim without fouling, his impact is much smaller. This is because his playmaking — both with or without the ball — has been almost completely absent.

Often will you see Mathurin try to beat his defenders with his lethal jab step —and successfully do so — only to be met with another defender congesting the lane and eating into his room to operate. The natural play would be to kick it out to an open shooter, but his failure to do has been quite frequent.

In this play, three defenders jammed the lane, but Mathurin tried to force his way instead of kicking out to the corners where he could’ve easily threaded a pass given the open passing lane.

We’re not going to start nitpicking on every single play resembling this one, but a better understanding of spacing and where his teammates are will help him a long way in becoming a more well-rounded player and also benefit the team navigate better without Haliburton.

Overall, the notion of perfect rookies is obviously a dystopian idea. However, for Bennedict Mathurin to more effectively lead the Indiana Pacers sans their best player, overcoming his biggest weakness is a no-brainer.

Next. ESPN bares interesting Pacers-Blazers trade. dark