This is a part of our NBA Draft Prospect Review series where we evaluate the top players of the 2022 NBA Draft by reviewing every shot, assist, turnover, steal and rebound during their most recent collegiate season. Every writer was given access to game footage and asked to deliver their takeaways about the player in whatever manner they saw fit.
With the NBA Draft lottery mere weeks away, Detroit fans have their hopes pinned to a 2022-23 roster featuring either of the top three candidates in this year's class. Following a third consecutive 20-win season, it seems incomprehensible to envision next year's team without one of; Jabari Smith Jr., Paolo Banchero or Chet Holmgren.
But facts are facts, and picking inside or outside of the top 3 is a statistical coin flip, and the coin is actually weighted to picking later. With the exception of last year, Detroit’s lottery luck in recent years has been anything but, often sliding back in positioning from their projected spot. It would simply be irresponsible as a Detroit Piston page to not provide coverage on the rest of the field.
While the 2022 Draft Class lacks the wealth of elite-upside talent from the previous year, there are a number of wings in the mid-late lottery which could serve a variety of needs for Detroit. One of these prospects that could go in that 6-12 range is Arizona’s sophomore guard, Bennedict Mathurin. The sweet-shooting 19-year-old showed tremendous growth in his two seasons as a Wildcat and projects to be a dynamic player in the pros.
In this piece, we’ll delve into various areas of Mathurin’s profile that will translate to the big league, and also those skills that will need further refinement upon his NBA arrival.
Translatable Skills as a Rookie
Listed at 6-foot-6, with top-line athleticism, Mathurin possesses all the physical traits of an elite NBA wing prospect. Factor in a smooth, fundamentally sound jumpshot and you're left with potentially the best non-big candidate in this year's draft crop.
As a rookie, Mathurin projects to be a dynamic off-ball player on offense. In his sophomore season with Arizona, the 19-year-old excelled as a finisher on the attacking end of the court. While he scored most of his points in spot-up situations, Mathurin was able to stifle opposing defenses by generating 177 points (27% of total points scored) off; basket cuts, screens and offensive rebounds. Per Synergy, the dynamic-wing rated as ‘Very Good’ to ‘Excellent’ in the aforementioned categories.
In his two years as a Wildcat, Mathurin shot 38.3% on an average of five three-point attempts per game. While his percentage from long-range dipped as a sophomore, the Canadian demonstrated an improved ability to score off of movement, displaying great balance and elevation when hoisting a jumper via an off-ball screen.
In 37 games as a sophomore, Mathurin’s best performances usually came as a result of the explosive wing relentlessly attacking in transition. Mathurin’s elite speed and athleticism allow him to seamlessly glide down the court before exploding into an acrobatic finish. Though his playmaking in the halfcourt requires improvement, Mathurin made great reads as a passer on the fast break, throwing some excellent lead passes to streaking allies.
The final aspect of Mathurin’s game that stood out when studying film was his shot selection. For a first option, Mathurin rarely forced a bad shot, he consistently showed great poise when receiving the ball. If the shot wasn’t there, he would proceed to swing the ball and relocate.
Mathurin’s off-ball creation and transition prowess should translate to the NBA hardwood upon his debut. These skills are highly desirable for any NBA offense and should provide the 19-year-old with instant opportunity in a rotation.
Improvement Areas for Rookie Season
There are definitely a few key areas of growth required in the Arizona Sophomore’s game. In his second stint with the Wildcats, Mathurin struggled to create scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates. However, the aspect of his game that could see immediate improvement in his debut season comes on the defensive end.
As previously mentioned, the 19-year-old wing is blessed with elite physical tools. Standing at 6-foot-6 with a reported 6-foot-9 wingspan, Mathurin possesses the makings of a disruptive perimeter defender. He teased onlookers with his ability to defend multiple actions within sole possession. At times Mathurin show flexed his physicality by forcefully navigating screens to contain opposing ball handlers. Unfortunately, these acts of defensive brilliance lacked consistency.
When assessing the film, Mathurin displayed a glaring tendency to ball watch, often resulting in an opponent score. Whether his man was able to relocate or chase down an offensive rebound, even with his supreme speed, Mathurin was constantly caught out of position. Another area for concern was his lack of astute close-outs to opposing shooters. The late shot contests were often a domino effect of Mathurin initially ball watching and failing to rotate accordingly to his opponent.
The good news for NBA teams looking to acquire Mathurin is that his defensive woes are easily correctable. The Canadian wing, had plenty of successful defensive possessions, displaying his ability to both; contain and blow-up opposition offense. A possible reason for the dearth of defensive consistency could be a result of Mathurin being the first option on offense. Perhaps the physical toll of being tightly guarded led to Mathurin’s lapses in concentration on defense.
As a rookie, Mathurin will be able to channel more energy on the defensive end of the floor, as it's highly unlikely he’s a staple feature of an NBA offense.
Long-Term Development Areas
When assessing Mathurin as a long-term prospect, there is one major area of his game requiring growth in order for him to achieve his optimal potential — his ability to create off the bounce.
For as good an off-ball bucket getter Mathurin was, he was equally bad as an on-ball creator, particularly from an efficiency point of view. If he was unable to blow by the defender with his explosive first step, Mathurin would struggle to generate a scoring opportunity. The 19-year-old sophomore was often easily contained on the perimeter due to his lack of dribble combinations.
Per Synergy, Mathurin scored only 8 points from isolation possessions, shooting a woeful 3 of 14 from the field in such scenarios. To the Canadian’s credit, he showed great self-awareness in rarely opting to isolate on offense, partaking in only 19 total iso possessions for the season. If he was unable to get by his defender with a quick dribble move, Mathurin would promptly swing the ball to a teammate and relocate.
While he was a fantastic finisher in transition, Mathurin displayed a tendency to struggle when finishing around the rim in a half-court set, particularly when attempting to finish amongst a crowd.
One reason he struggled is his lack of a strong left hand. Mathurin would often make finishes harder due to his over-reliance on his right hand. In the split second it would take for him to adjust mid-air allowed defenders to recover and protect the rim.
The self-creation improvement required will determine the type of career Mathurin has in the big league. If he is able to add some spice off of the bounce, the 19-year-old could easily be a 20-point-per-night scorer in the NBA.
Fit with Detroit
Mathurin immediately helps address two major deficiencies on this Detroit roster with his transition finishing and three-point shooting ability. Per Cleaning the Glass, your 2021-22 Detroit Pistons ranked 28th and 29th in transition scoring and three-point shooting efficiency. Hence, the sophomore guard's silky stroke and craft on the break should earn him instant minutes in the rotation.
From a long-term perspective, if the Canadian is able to shore up his defensive attentiveness, his combination of off-ball chops and space creation provide Cade Cunningham with the ideal running mate. Ideally, Mathurin is able to develop as a ball-handler to provide greater elasticity to Detroit’s offense. But, if the playmaking doesn’t come, there is still tremendous value in a dynamic two-way wing capable of locking down an opponent's lead guard while scoring 12-16 points on low usage.
If Detroit is in a position to select the high-flying combo guard, barring a draft-night trade, it will mean they have missed the opportunity to nab either of the bigs at the top of the draft. In this scenario, Mathurin’s path to a starting role as a rookie appears ripe for the taking, particularly if Saddiq Bey shows continued growth as a creator. If he can become a net-neutral defender, the 19 year-old’s athletic profile and scoring capability provides more than the likes of Killian Hayes, Frank Jackson and Cory Joseph.
While it could be considered a disastrous outcome for Detroit to select outside of the top-3, Mathurin could serve as a rousing consolation prize, with the upside to become a top tier player in the class of 2022.