In possession of their highest draft pick in more than three decades, it was imperative for an Indiana Pacers franchise in a state of flux to strike the iron while still hot. Lo and behold, no one can argue that they managed to nail their rare high draft selection in the form of Bennedict Mathurin, whom they snagged with the sixth overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.
Right off the bat, the Arizona alum showed out, starkly distinguishing himself as one of the best players in his draft class. Despite playing off the bench for most of the season, Mathurin’s production never really wavered, quickly emerging as the Pacers’ alpha guy in the second unit.
That being said, how did he fare overall in his freshman year? Here is our player review of Bennedict Mathurin for the 2022-23 NBA Season.
2022-23 Stats: 16.7 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.6 SPG, 43.4 FG%, 32.3 3FG%, 82.8 FT%
Rookie Bennedict Mathurin quickly stood out for the Indiana Pacers in Year 1
Bennedict Mathurin has always been forecasted as an uber-athletic wing who can score in bunches, and in a nutshell, he was exactly as pictured in his rookie campaign. Rick Carlisle thrusted him into a sixth man role for the Indiana Pacers with his scoring ability, and in that aspect, he certainly delivered. His 16.7 points per game ranks second among all rookies.
In particular, Mathurin’s ability to get to the rim with ease using his deadly jab step and upper body strength is perhaps his biggest strength this season. His 5.8 free-throw attempts per contest, again, ranks second among all freshmen, and an impressive 11th in the entire association when adjusted to a per-100 possessions scale.
Better yet, Mathurin’s 82.8 percent conversion rate on the charity stripe is much welcome, especially given his volume. This has been especially pivotal for a Pacers team whose offense has largely stunk when Tyrese Haliburton is sidelined or off the floor. Overall, the Canadian’s uncanny willingness to embrace being a shot creator is a glowing sign of his tremendous potential as a big-time scorer in the league.
Conversely, nitpickers and stats geeks would probably not have a hard time locating Mathurin’s weak points in his rookie season. His field goal percentage isn’t bad by any means and is actually tolerable given his shot selection and the very fact that he’s in Year 1, but he clearly struggled from downtown. A bulk of that is imputable to his recurring hesitation to fire away from deep, cutting off his rhythm in catch-and-shoot opps and diminishing his already-poor off-ball utility.
Going back to the shot selection department, Mathurin was an iffy operator at times with his questionable decision-making. He would often try to beat the traffic instead of capitalizing on it, missing a ton of potential assists or hockey passes due to his tendency to have a tunnel vision when driving in the lane. His improvement as a playmaker as soon as next season is a resolute non-negotiable as his role inflates further.
Lastly, Mathurin’s defense wasn’t as good as advertised. None of his lapses on the less glamorous end of the floor are due to his physical tools, but he was far from effective nor consistent as a defender. The Pacers were a poor point-preventing unit as a collective, but the rookie should be much better than just getting blown by regularly at the point of attack. His off-ball defense also leaves a lot to be desired, underscoring his need to improve his overall court awareness.
Player Grade: A-
Despite his bevy of lapses, Bennedict Mathurin turned in an invigorating rookie season for an Indiana Pacers team suddenly ahead of schedule in what was once expected to be a long rebuild. He was far from perfect, but rookies aren’t expected to be immaculate. And from that vantage point, the sixth overall pick managed to outdo virtually everyone in his draft class, giving the team and the fans someone they can safely tab as a centerpiece for years to come.
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