Bennedict Mathurin must overcome his greatest weakness

The Indiana Pacers made history for themselves last summer when they snagged their highest draft pick in over three decades. And as if that weren’t enough, the team made their pick easily as Bennedict Mathurin caused quite a stir with his play for blue and gold – the rookie has already established himself as the undeniable second best rookie.

Mathurin was absolutely stellar in Year 1 – first in total points among rookies, second in points per game, and third in total three-pointers scored. Most impressively, he’s recorded those numbers despite having broken off the bench in 42 out of 48 games so far and averaging just 28.3 minutes per contest, which means sixth among his own kind.

The rookie sensation’s play this season was clearly one of the main drivers behind Indiana’s unexpected start to the season. However, the team’s magic has started to fade lately — with star guard Tyrese Haliburton sidelined through injury, the Pacers have lost seven straight games and have fallen from sixth to ninth in the East.

Bennedict Mathurin has to overcome his greatest weakness for the Indiana Pacers in order to have more success in the meantime

Of course, as a rookie, Mathurin is not expected to be versatile in all areas of the game. However, his passing has been pretty subpar so far and the numbers throw in just that. Despite having plenty of space on the court every night — Rick Carlisle’s short leash notwithstanding — the rookie has only racked up 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 compounded Mathurin’s sheer lack of passing bats – a gaping hole most teams exploit. With the rookie logging of the highest Utilization on the team, defenders were more than happy with him executing difficult shots if that meant closing down fast lanes and then more efficient shots.

Mathurin’s uncanny ability to convert hard shots was undeniable, but when his shots don’t fall and defenders are smart to fight him around the edge without fouling, his impact is much less. This is because his playmaking – both on and off the ball – has been almost entirely lacking.

Often times you’ll see Mathurin attempt to hit his defenders with his deadly jab step – and do so successfully – only to find another defender clogging the alley and eating his way into his room to operate. The natural play would be to throw it to an open shooter, but his failure to do so was fairly common.

In that game, three defenders blocked the lane, but Mathurin tried to work his way through instead of kicking into the corners where, given the open pass lane, he could easily have threaded a pass.

We won’t start nitpicking on every single game that resembles this one, but a better understanding of spacing and where his teammates are positioned will help him become a more versatile player and also benefit the team without better navigating Haliburton.

Overall, the notion of perfect beginners is obviously a dystopian notion. However, for Bennedict Mathurin to run the Indiana Pacers more effectively without their best player, overcoming his greatest weakness is a no-brainer.

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