The Indiana Pacers are fresh off an impressive 131-123 win over the Detroit Pistons following their loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the In-Season Tournament. Despite Tyrese Haliburton's 14 points and 16 rebounds, he was not the story of Indiana's win, with that being the fantastic play of Bennedict Mathurin.
In a team-high 37 minutes on the night, Mathurin played perhaps the best basketball of his career, scoring 30 points on 10/17 shooting and 3/5 from downtown, his first 30-point game of the season, while also pulling down seven rebounds and dishing out a career-high eight assists to go along with two steals to lead the Pacers to victory.
This, of course, comes after Mathurin put up an impressive showing in the In-Season Tournament finals against the Los Angeles Lakers with a 20-point performance, being one of the few teammates that stepped up for Tyrese Haliburton despite the loss.
As the season has progressed, Pacers fans have had different opinions on Mathurin, with some claiming to give him time, as he is still young, and others being rather impatient and demanding for Indiana to pull the plug on the experiment and trade him for an older, more established star.
Monday was exactly why such a move is unnecessary, at least at this point in Mathurin's career. To completely understand the Bennedict Mathurin experience, we must return to the start of his career about a year and a half ago.
As the 6th pick of the 2022 NBA draft, going to a newly rebuilding team with no playoff aspirations, expectations were high on Bennedict Mathurin to come out of the gates strong and make an impact after two solid seasons at Arizona.
To his credit, Mathurin did not do much to soften these expectations, almost immediately issuing a challenge to LeBron James and declaring him the best player in Arizona basketball history, much to the surprise of Pacers fans and fans of the NBA in general who had no idea who this 6-foot-6 kid out of Montreal was.
Sure enough, despite not being given a starting spot right away and having to work for every minute even as a lottery pick, Mathurin impressed plenty in his rookie season, averaging 16.7 points in 28.5 minutes and even notching two 30-point games.
This impressive play, combined with the Pacers surprising many with their play before Tyrese Haliburton's injury, put Mathurin in early conversations for Rookie of the Year, with some even putting him above Paolo Banchero due to the Pacers' record being better than the Magic.
While he did eventually hit the rookie wall, with his averages more or less staying the same but his efficiency dropping, he still played well enough to nab the starting spot in the final 11 games of the season, averaging 21.1 points on 46% shooting in the final seven games of the year.
Going into the offseason, Mathurin focused on improving his playmaking and defensive abilities, and he showcased them in the preseason, making new reads and being far more unselfish with the ball while showcasing an improved effort on defense.
Unfortunately, as the season went on, this effort would come and go on certain nights as Mathurin traded games where he showed clear improvement from his rookie year to games where he seemed to regress from just a season ago, showing less confidence with the ball in his hands and an outright lack of effort on defense.
These lackluster performances have led to Mathurin being among the first players put in trade discussions for the Pacers in mock deals for players such as Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby.
In my opinion, Indiana would be foolish to give up on Mathurin this early, as he is only 21 years old and has displayed the potential of a potential team-leading scorer if given the green light.
Before the Pistons game, in 20 games this season, Mathurin has averaged 24.7 minutes per game, surprisingly less than the 28.5 minutes per game he averaged in the 2022-23 season despite starting 60% of games as opposed to 21% of his games as a rookie.
In addition to this, when Mathurin has gotten playing time, he usually makes the most of it. In 100 games as a pro, Mathurin has gotten 30 or more minutes in 38 games. In those 38 games, Mathurin has scored over 20 points 23 times compared to only nine times when he plays less than 30 minutes.
In addition, Mathurin has clearly shown strides as a defender and playmaker, with his main issue being consistency. While he has a high motor and high energy, Mathurin, at times, suffers from a lack of confidence outside scoring the ball.
There have been plenty of instances where he makes one good defensive play and proceeds to take the next five plays off or lets his man get beat once and lets it get to his head to where he lets it happen an additional five times.
Consistency issues have easily been Mathurin's biggest problems since coming to the league, and they will most likely be fixed with experience. With the Pacers still being a very young team and not needing to be in any rush to trade any young assets away, Mathurin should be allowed some more time to find his footing in Indiana before he is put on the trade block.
If he gets this time, provided his confidence stays high and he stays motivated in all other aspects of the game, the sky truly is the limit for the youngster out of Montreal.