Just days before a pivotal night for franchises across the NBA, the prospects that make up the 2022 NBA Draft class continue to jockey for position among the opinions of executives across the league. The Detroit Pistons, who are picking fifth on Thursday night, are expected to pick from a group that has largely remained the same since the draft lottery saw the team drop two spots in the draft order. We have already highlighted two of the players Detroit is expected to choose from in Jaden Ivey and Keegan Murray, and while Shaedon Sharpe has seemingly fallen out of the top five projected picks, Arizona Wildcats guard Bennedict Mathurin has risen his name into the discussion.
With the ability to jump out of the gym and an evident passion that presents itself as an aurora around him on the court, Bennedict Mathurin has made a name for himself as one of the top prospects in this year’s draft class.
Last year at Arizona, Mathurin averaged 17.7 points per game after scoring just 10.8 points in his freshman campaign. He doubled his average of assists from 1.2 to 2.5 and jumped from 4.8 rebounds to 5.6 boards per contest. His efficiency dropped, specifically his 3-point shooting percentage – from 41.8 to 36.9 – but there’s enough volume in his numbers to trust his ability to shoot the ball.
Mathurin was awarded the Pac-12 Player of the Year honor and was named to the Wooden Award national ballot.
The Pistons don’t have an athlete of Mathurin’s stature on the roster outside of Hamidou Diallo – whose future with the team is uncertain – and Mathurin’s athleticism would fill a glaring need in Detroit’s starting lineup. It’s easy to envision Mathurin’s play-finishing ability thriving with a defense locked in on the cerebral Cade Cunningham. He’s a dynamic lob threat and blur in transition. Outside of Cunningham, the Pistons don’t have a lot of talent capable of applying downhill pressure towards the rim. Even with a shaky handle – more on that later – Mathurin’s ability to finish at the rim and use his athleticism to get downhill would bolster Detroit’s offense.
Mathurin’s ability to score isn’t limited to his finishing ability at the rim. Although his efficiency from beyond the arc took a dip in his sophomore season, he still shot 37% from beyond the arc and the degree of his shot-making – both inside and outside the arc – increased. For a team that was as inefficient as Detroit was last season, adding a shot-maker like Mathurin would raise the team’s floor on that side of the ball.
While Mathurin’s offensive game is highlighted by his athletic finishing and consistent shooting, his ball-handling skills create limitations to how
good great of a player he could be on that side of the floor. A prominent example of this was just seen throughout the NBA Playoffs in Jaylen Brown. Brown and Mathurin share a lot of the same strengths in their game. Their rim-rocking athleticism and fluid shot-making ability are similar just as their unpolished ball-handling skills are. If Mathurin doesn’t improve his handle and ball control, his ceiling will always be limited offensively.
Defensively, Mathurin has a tendency to play without the passion and energy that can be evident in his game on the other side of the floor. Too often he gets blown by and beat to the rim.
Mathurin has the size and tangibles to be a physical and intimidating defender at 6’6, 205lbs, but until he challenges himself to routinely lock in on that side of the floor, he’ll pose as a potential exploit for opposing teams to challenge.
Detroit’s glaring need for help on the wing provides appeal to the idea of selecting Mathurin on Thursday. Cade Cunningham’s versatility to fit alongside virtually any player archetype allows for Detroit to draft without the need to worry about a player overlapping with Cunningham’s skillset or having to mask Cunningham’s weaknesses. Mathurin presents as a player who perhaps isn’t great at a bunch of different aspects of his game individually but also doesn’t have a slew of holes in his game either.
Mathurin’s athleticism and shooting ability would help a team that is lacking in both departments. The Pistons were 29th in the league last season in both field goal shooting percentage and 3-point shooting percentage. Outside of Jerami Grant – who very well could be traded before the Pistons are on the clock come Thursday night – is the only current member of Detroit’s starting lineup whose athleticism is a more profound aspect of his game. Mathurin’s scoring upside would be an intriguing addition to a team that lacked consistent threats to score the ball last season outside of Cunningham, Grant, and Saddiq Bey.
Mathurin does not present the upside of a player such as Jaden Ivey, which places him behind the Purdue product on my big board, but Mathurin’s talent and seamless fit with Detroit have given him a slight edge over Keegan Murray of Iowa and firmly ahead of any other darkhorse options for the Pistons such as Shaedon Sharpe, Johnny Davis, or Dyson Daniels. If the Sacramento Kings trade out of the fourth pick and another team jumps ahead of Detroit to draft Ivey – which seems to be the likely scenario at this current time – then Troy Weaver and the rest of Detroit’s front office should feel confident in selecting Mathurin with the fifth pick in the 2022 NBA Draft on Thursday night.