If you know me here at Detroit Bad Boys, then you know I love me some NBA Draft Content! In a recurring column here on the site, I am going to be previewing many 2022 NBA Draft Prospects for our Detroit Pistons—and I am going to start with the upperclassmen and returning players from college as well as overseas players. We will eventually get to all the top incoming freshman at the top of the class as the season wears on—but my rule of thumb is to hold off ANY kind of judgement or evaluations on the young guys until they get AT LEAST 10 full games of basketball under their belt.
Plus, I am always trying to push back against the ridiculous narrative of knocking a guy for being “too old” cuz he’s 20. Congratulations! You just passed on Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Jimmy Butler, and Steph Curry (and TWICE if you’re Minnesota). I am always on the lookout for the next one of these guys who exhibit a lot of skills on the basketball court and actual upside others may overlook.
I will present each prospect’s game in three parts: (1) What They Do Well; (2) What They Need to Improve On; and what I call (3) How Will They Fit with the MotorCade? Since this Pistons team has a crystal-clear pecking order now, this last section will be time to contemplate how the player in question may or may not fit alongside Cade and what kind of draft capital (i.e. lottery pick, late first, second rounder) the Pistons most likely will have to spend on said player. So without further ado, let’s get started!
Bennedict Mathurin by the Numbers
The University of Arizona’s Bennedict Mathurin is my pick for the best returning college basketball player this upcoming season. Many in the NBA Draft Community have Jaden Ivey ranked ahead of him, but I feel very strongly Mathurin should be that guy, and I will show you why in this preview.
Side note: this doesn’t mean I don’t like Jaden Ivey. What this means is that Ivey has some areas for improvement in his game that are bigger issues for me. But this is Mathurin’s time to shine and I will get to Ivey in my next post.
Mathurin is a 6-foot-7 shooting guard who weighs in at 195 pounds. During the 2020-21 season at Arizona, he posted the following per game stats:
- 10.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.7 steals, and 0.1 blocks
His shooting splits were:
- 52.1% from two-point range, 41.8% from three-point distance, and 84.6% from the foul line.
All this translated to advanced stats of:
- 62.5% True Shooting, 11.1% Total Rebound Percentage, 9.2% Assist Percentage, 11.8% Turnover Rate, on 19.6% Usage
While these may seem like underwhelming stats to some, let’s dive into some film and shot charts to get an idea of why I want to pump up Mathurin.
What He Does Well
The short answers for what things Mathurin does well are shooting threes and hitting shots at the rim. You would be hard pressed to find another player with these skills so clearly defined and perfectly matched for today’s analytics-driven NBA.
Really, his game should be packaged as the elite NBA role player starter kit. To give you an idea of what I mean, let’s take a look at a similar role player prospect from last year’s draft in Trey Murphy III. Murphy took a total or 191 shots with 120 of them coming from behind the arc and only 71 from within. Mathurin, on the other hand, took 187 total shots with 91 coming from three-point range and 96 from two-point distance. This almost even distribution between three- and two-point shots makes a big difference as it shows Mathurin is not just a three-point shooter but can also attack from different areas on the court.
While Mathurin has been in more of a complementary role at Arizona, over the summer at the FIBA U19 World Cup, Mathurin was one of a three-headed monster driving team Canada’s offense. Although he took fewer shots than the other two players—Caleb Houstan (Go Blue!) and Ryan Nembhard—Mathurin scored 113 points. This total was more than Nembhard, only six points behind Houstan’s 119, and was good for the 7th most points scored at the tournament.
Not only does this indicate Mathurin’s ability to take a more featured role in the offense, but it again indicates his efficiency as he was able to be his team’s second-leading scorer while taking fewer shots. He also had games like the one I will highlight here against Serbia in the Bronze Medal game where he dropped 30 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block—all of which led team Canada to capturing that Bronze Medal.
It is also important to note that Mathurin was 0-for-4 from three-point land in this game, but was 11-for-11 from two-point range and 9-for-10 from the free-throw line. Here is an indicator that he is not just simply a three-point shooter. The ball-handling ability and running in transition really expand Mathurin’s game to be a threat at every level on the court.
And the most promising aspect of his game is his ability to generate free throws. You can tell he is beginning to understand how to attack defenses by leveraging his jumper and then getting bigs into bad situations where they have no choice but to bump or swipe at the quicker and craftier Mathurin.
What He Needs to Improve
I think the easiest way to begin the discussion on the areas of Mathurin’s game that need the most improvement is talking about his role at Arizona. At Arizona this past season, Mathurin was not a full-time starter as he came off the bench in 14 of the 26 games.
And in the 12 games Mathurin did start his numbers dipped. He scored in the single digits in six out of these 12 games and in the final seven games of the season (where Mathurin started all seven), he shot an abysmal 34% from the field. He will need to step it up this upcoming season being a full-time starter and prove he can up his productivity and efficiency even when his workload increases.
And while I still believe in Mathurin’s ability to be more than a complementary role player because of his FIBA play, his Arizona teammate Azuolas Tubelis was fifth in points scored at that same tournament. And as Arizona just changed head coaches from Sean Miller to longtime Gonzaga Assistant Coach Tommy Lloyd, many college basketball experts are predicting Tubelis to be utilized in a Drew Timme-type role for Arizona.
Tubelis was the second-leading scorer for Arizona last season putting up 12.2 points per game so he is more established as Mathurin when it comes to being the focal point of an offense. And he also expanded that responsibility into FIBA play where he WAS the offense for his native Lithuania. Mathurin will no doubt be a featured part of the offense, but the shine and spotlight may go to Tubelis if he is going to be featured as much as Timme. This also would force Mathurin back into being a complementary role player.
This will be something to monitor as the season goes on and, in my opinion, will make the difference in Mathurin’s draft stock following the trajectory of upperclassmen before him. Will he rise to the top of the draft like DeAndre Hunter as he takes charge of his team or be a mid to late first round pick like Trey Murphy III limited by the role and scheme he is asked to play.
Mathurin also isn’t known as defender and will need to show more engagement on that end of the court. If I had to venture a guess as to WHY Sean Miller did not start Mathurin to begin last season, defense would be my guess as James Akinjo was lead dog on the team and he was not asked to be a defender so pairing him with a freshmen not locked in on D was not in Arizona’s best interest.
As you will see in this clip against Oregon State (his first start of the year), Mathurin does not lack in effort but gets lost sometimes when trying to navigate zones and hasn’t yet mastered how to fight through screens. He will definitely need to learn to sit down and slide his feet first and foremost, but as you will see, he consistently gets his hands up and understands how to use his length to affect shots.
How much defense he’ll be asked to play this upcoming season is uncertain, but in my opinion he needs to improve on this end more so in order to rise up draft boards as being a good defender at his size along with his stellar role player potential could lock him into the top 10 in a class lacking for wing prospects.
How will Mathurin fit with the MotorCade?
I start with Cade’s shot chart here because Mathurin’s is perfectly complementary to Cade’s. Last year, I was ready to write a big article all about why the Pistons should trade back into round 1 of the 2021 draft in order to select Mathurin and his complementary skills, but then he returned to school.
Mathurin works best as a shooting guard, which makes him an ideal fit in the young guy lineup between Cade and Saddiq. Cade gets another shooter to give him more space to operate, Saddiq gets another ball handler to let him utilize his spacing to its utmost while working on his own handle. Beef Stew gets another shooter to let him work down low and a ball handler to run pick-and-rolls. And with Killian in at the one, Mathurin’s spacing and rim attacking are two more weapons for Killian’s playmaking.
Since Killian prefers to go left, look at Mathurin’s shot chart again and you will see he is deadly all the way around the right side of the 3-point arc. Just like how Mathurin perfectly compliments Cade’s shooting, Mathurin perfectly complements Killian’s driving to give him the kind of spacing to draw defenders further away from where he works best.
I have seen Mathurin in the teens in preseason mock drafts and big boards, and while the Pistons could have a top-5 pick, if they progress throughout the season, they could also land somewhere in the teens. Unless he really does have a DeAndre Hunter like season leading Arizona to a NCAA Final Four run and/or title, I don’t see Mathurin really jumping higher than the 10th spot because the incoming freshman class will always have the upside card for most evaluators and Jaden Ivey still holds a stranglehold on the “best returning NCAA Draft Prospect Title” for many.
Let us know what you think of Bennedict Mathurin in the comments below and if you would want the Pistons to take him if they end up in the lottery again. Next time I will dive into the guy Mathurin may not be able to jump in the rankings among returning college players: Jaden Ivey.