Friends, if you dig three-pointers, floor spacing, off-screen scoring, pull-ups, and dynamic jams, step right up for a sizzling plate of Bennedict Mathurin.
Hailing from Montreal, Canada, the Arizona Wildcat is a 6’7”, 200ish lbs shooting guard who lit up the college court in Tucson and is ready to plug into your favorite professional team. NBA Draft Room mocks him to the New York Knicks, while others predict him to go higher up the draft board. Before we are too seduced by his offensive prowess, let’s consider if he fills any important holes for the Knicks, and whether they actually need him.
As a freshman, Mathurin started 12 of 26 games, but in 2021-22, the sophomore stepped up, starting all 37 contests, averaging 32.5 minutes per outing, and coming in clutch for Arizona. During his second year, the big wing collected 17.7 points, 5.6 boards, 2.5 dishes, and a steal per game, and his team lost only four of its 37 games with him as the first scoring option. Mathurin finished the season with 655 points and a team-high 484 field goal attempts.
Here the youngster takes a 30-point bite out of TCU:
Mathurin’s shelf is bowed with awards. In his sophomore season alone, he was named Second Team All-American, Pac-12 Player of the Year, Pac-12 Tournament Most Outstanding Player, Wooden Award All-American, and included on NABC All-District First Team and First Team All Pac-12. There’s good reason for all the accolades.
Be warned that watching this guy shoot might make your knees weak. His jumper has a high release, a buttery stroke that is reminiscent of Knick Quentin Grimes and difficult to defend. Bennedict shot 45% from the floor and just under half of his shots came from beyond the arc, where he had a success rate of 37%. His 83 treys rated him 8th on Arizona’s all-time list.
Here’s a compilation, served with hot sauce:
From year one to two, the 19-year-old (20 in June) improved his handles and passing. He accelerates well, and ya gotta love these cold cuts:
Bennedict Mathurin is a professional scorer (17.7 PPG) with the ball in his hands, but he's also a stellar backdoor cutter when his defender overcommits and/or falls asleep. #NBADraft #BearDown pic.twitter.com/kOJfyZBa0T— Sudeep Tumma (@asktumma) April 11, 2022
“Ben’s not afraid of the moment,” said first-year head coach Tommy Lloyd after Arizona’s big win over TCU. “He’s a special player who has an ability to rise it up another level when needed. He has that clutch gene.” The skipper had good reason to appreciate the star player. Their successful season earned Lloyd multiple Coach of the Year awards.
As usual with young draftees, further skill development is needed. Only a third of Mathurin’s field goal attempts were at the rim, where he converted about 63%. And he shoots about 76% from the charity stripe. At the pro level, he will be expected to maximize his physical gifts and hammer the paint more often…and practice those free throws.
Still, don’t you get the warm fuzzies while imagining this kid careening down the court with Obi Toppin?
There’s no disputing that Mathurin is NBA-ready, but his thrilling highlights might have some empty calories. The knocks on the Canadian have been a) he gets befuddled when the court gets complicated, b) his energy and focus lag when things don’t go his way, and c) he can be a disinterested defender.
In recent drafts, New York’s front office has prioritized B-Ball smarts, gym-rattiness, and intensity of effort. Whether Mathurin shares those attributes with Obi Toppin, Immanuel Quickley, Grimes, Deuce McBride, and Jericho Sims remains to be seen.
But we do have encouraging plays to sate our concerns:
Harrison Ingram should've thrown this pass a little bit sooner (ideally) but he doesn't and Bennedict Mathurin does a great job staying aware and capitalizes on the mistake. pic.twitter.com/IRi3dV0PkU— Thunder Draft (@thunder_draft) April 6, 2022
While the dude has the talent to fill up a stat sheet, there’s no guarantee that Arizona’s dynamo will thrive in the Association the same way he has against collegiate competition. Plus, New York has wings aplenty, with RJ Barrett, Grimes, Cam Reddish, Evan Fournier, and Alec Burks. Obviously, a team with the league’s 22nd offense could use more scoring, which Mathurin may provide, but at whose expense?
Fournier is well-compensated, and the Knicks are unlikely to give his minutes to the rookie. Dumping a reliable NBA pro like Burks to make room for a kid who has yet to play against NBA talent is a gamble, and the Knicks’ brass doesn’t strike me as gamblers. Would you give Grimes’ time to Mathurin? I wouldn’t.
Mathurin has similarities to Cam Reddish: similar frames, both players average about 58% True Shooting, fast first steps, etc. (Cam makes his free throws, though.) It is too soon to give up on Cam, who played only 15 games with New York before sustaining a season-ending injury. However, Reddish will want a new contract soon, and the Knicks may want to keep Mathurin in their back pocket (i.e., the G-League) in case an agreement can’t be reached.
We can argue all day about what the Knicks need most. This season, New York lost a ton of close games because they lacked a bona fide closer—a stud who consistently takes control in the final minutes and Breen-Bangs those final buckets. RJ may become that player, but he isn’t there yet. If the Knicks intend to return to the playoffs, they’ll need THAT GUY, not another—albeit talented—wing who will be lucky to get 12 minutes per night. And, with Tom Thibodeau holding the clipboard, 12 might be a stretch.
If he’s still on the board, and I doubt he will be, New York will pass on Bennedict Mathurin unless they plan to move a vet (Fournier, Burks) or package a young guy (Grimes, Reddish) in a deal for a superstar. My gut says that neither scenario happens. Whatever team gets him will be pleased with their pick, though. Feast your eyes, one more time.