1. Bennedict Mathurin’s improvements
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the preseason was just how much Bennedict Mathurin has improved over the summer.
Following the rookie season, the take on Mathurin was that he was a budding star who was great at scoring but needed work on several aspects of his game, more specifically, his ball-handling, defense, and playmaking.
This became increasingly evident as the 2022-23 season went on, and Mathurin went into the typical slump that almost all rookies experience. His turnovers increased and his shooting percentages went down.
Throughout the summer, however, it seems as if Mathurin has worked on every single flaw in his game from his rookie season, and now looks like a much more complete player.
For one, Mathurin’s playmaking has been on point in the preseason. While his assist numbers don’t exactly jump out of the screen (2.4 APG in the preseason), it’s the little things he’s doing and the exact passes he is making that have caught the attention of Pacers fans.
Specifically, it’s what he’s not doing. In the past, Mathurin would drive to the basket and force up a shot in traffic and either miss, get blocked, or get stripped. Now, he seems more willing to drive and kick and is more keen on looking for an open teammate rather than forcing up an ill-advised shot in traffic.
In addition to the smarter passes, Mathurin has also found himself on the highlight reel a few times with his passing in the preseason, most notably with this lob to Obi Toppin to finish off the fast break.
In addition to finding the open man and getting on the highlight reel, Mathurin has also shown his ability to swing the ball and make the extra pass, leading to a better-quality shot for a teammate.
Mathurin’s playmaking has not been the only thing that has improved. While that has been the most glaring improvement in his game, his defense is also something that needs to be talked about.
In his rookie year, Mathruin showed signs of being a fantastic on-ball and off-ball defender, but he really seemed to put it all together in the summer and, at times, showed flashes of being a fantastic defender, with active feet and the awareness of a future All-Defensive team member.
With these improvements on deck, there is no ceiling to how well Mathurin plays this upcoming season, as he has worked on almost every weak point in his game and has shown that veteran mentality that made the Pacers select him with the sixth pick in 2022.
One thing’s for sure: Mathurin has 100% earned that starting small forward role, and is looking to avoid that dreaded sophomore slump any way he can, and is on the right track so far.