The NBA Draft Lottery is less than a week away, and the Detroit Pistons are in a great position to land a top pick. The Pistons hold a 52 percent chance of landing a pick in the top four of the draft. That positioning gets them one of the top prospects. However, Detroit can still fall as far as the seventh pick after the lottery.
If the Pistons fall out of the top four, it means they will miss out on the three headlining big men in Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith, Paolo Banchero, and the top guard prospect in Jaden Ivey. At picks five through seven, the Pistons will shift their focus to Keegan Murray and AJ Griffin. Rounding out Detroit’s targets around the seventh pick is Arizona guard Bennedict Mathurin.
Mathurin nearly declared for the draft after his freshman season at Arizona. After his sophomore season, the 20-year-old boosted his draft stock to become a top ten prospect in the class. The 6-6 guard took on a heavier offensive load in his second year in college. He improved his scoring to 17.7 points per game on 13.1 attempts. This past season, he was named to the All-PAC-12 First Team, the PAC-12 Tournament MVP and Consensus All-America Second team.
After landing Cade Cunningham with the number one pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, Pistons’ GM Troy Weaver has made it clear the team is looking to upgrade Cunningham’s backcourt partner. Cory Joseph was suitable at times, and Killian Hayes showed improvement down the stretch, but Detroit’s backcourt lacked a secondary guy to take pressure off Cunningham. Mathurin is an instant upgrade for the Pistons’ backcourt if Weaver targets a guard via the draft.
Bennedict Mathurin is a great off-ball threat
Mathurin does most of his damage as an off-ball shooter. The 20-year-old has a consistent jumper with great mechanics. He has a high release point and quick, fluid motion. His attempts from beyond the arc nearly doubled from his freshman season to his sophomore season. While his efficiency dipped, he still managed to shoot 36.9 percent on 6.1 three-point attempts per contest.
The sophomore guard plays extremely well in designed plays through the offense. Arizona had Mathurin running off-ball screens, running dribble handoffs and spot-up catch-and-shoot opportunities. In transition, Mathurin can play as a trailer or position himself on the wing for an easy look at the basket off the catch.
Mathurin has natural cutting instincts as well. Arizona ran a lot of designed cut and lob plays for Mathurin. He times his backdoor cuts to perfectly position himself for the incoming pass. The guard is springy enough to finish lobs above the rim. In transition, he can play as a rim runner and finish through contact. He combines good body control with a soft touch around the rim to finish at the basket. He also has a knack for finishing off offensive rebounds; Mathurin averaged 1.4 offensive rebounds per game.
For as good as Mathurin is as an off-ball scorer, he struggles at times with the ball in his hands. He makes solid reads as a passer, he averaged 2.5 assists per game, but he has room to grow as a playmaker for others. Where Mathurin struggles most as an on-ball player is self-creation.
Mathurin has some burst when he attacks the basket. He can turn the corner on defenders, but if his driving lane is cut off he does not have the counter moves to reestablish his path to the rim. He was not asked to play as a primary ball-handler at Arizona, so his on-ball development has been very limited in the past two seasons. A tighter handle and adding more moves to his arsenal are a priority for his development at the NBA level.
Mathurin could one day be a respectable on-ball creator, both for himself and others. He will need a few seasons to improve in these areas, but his off-ball abilities are more than enough to make him an early impact player on the offensive end.
Bennedict Mathurin can be a great defender, with the right coaching
Mathurin has the tools to be an impactful player on the defensive end of the court. He has the length with a 6-9 wingspan, and he has the lateral quickness necessary to stick with his man.
Mathurin flashed potential in isolation at Arizona. He uses active hands to swipe the ball from opposing ball-handlers. He uses his active hands and long arms to disrupt passing lanes as well. The 20-year-old combines solid footwork with good agility to stay in front of his mark, often cutting off their driving lane. Once his man rises for a shot, Mathurin does a great job using his length to contest shots making him very difficult to finish over.
The sophomore made the most of his defensive abilities when he was engaged. However, Mathurin had his fair share of lapses on the defensive end with the Wildcats. At times, Mathurin was caught flat-footed on defense. He was often caught lagging as an off-ball defender, found himself in poor positioning and was reckless when closing out to shooters.
Mathurin has the potential to be a really good defensive player. He needs some coaching to help him unlock his abilities on the defensive end. Improving his focus will go a long way towards Mathurin becoming a better defensive player. Joining a team filled with players who bring high intensity on the defensive end could help as well.
Mathurin’s fit in Detroit
Mathurin might not be the ideal guard to pair with Cunningham in Detroit’s backcourt. The Pistons’ front office has made it clear they want to add a guard who can take some of the primary ball-handling duties off of Cunningham. Mathurin does not bring that to the table, not yet anyways. However, if the team is looking for an upgrade at the guard position, Mathurin is still one of the better options the Pistons could pursue this offseason.
If Detroit drafts the 20-year-old, Cunningham would be shifted to more of a true point guard role. With Mathurin’s superb abilities as an off-ball player, Cunningham would have a reliable spot-up catch-and-shoot option when he kicks the ball out off of drives. Cunningham would also have a solid lob threat in transition and in designed half court sets. Mathurin also brings quickness and burst that Detroit’s starting lineup is devoid of as it is currently constructed.
The Pistons coaching staff should not have too much trouble helping Mathurin develop into a more consistent defensive player. The athletic tools are there, it is just a matter of putting the pieces together.
Drafting Mathurin leaves the opportunity for Detroit to retain and extend Jerami Grant rather than trade him this offseason.
It is unlikely that Mathurin’s ceiling in the NBA is not a future perennial All-Star, but he should at the very least be a good player for a long time. If Detroit falls outside the top four picks, Mathurin is certain to garner consideration from the Pistons’ front office. He does not have flashy upside, but he does have a high floor. Bennedict Mathurin is a safe pick, and that might just be the best fit for the Pistons if they fall in the lottery.
(Featured Image Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports)
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