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Bennedict Mathurin earns All-Rookie honors, but Andrew Nembhard misses out by one point
Mathurin is the first Pacer since 1989 to be voted to the All-Rookie First Team. It was also the last time they had a top-10 pick in the draft.
After being shut out of the core seven NBA awards, the Pacers do have representation on the All-Rookie teams.
But not two, as expected.
Just one: Bennedict Mathurin.
The Pacers’ selection at No. 6 in the 2022 NBA Draft was one of the top five rookies all season so this was likely outcome. For most of the season, he was second only to Orlando’s Paolo Banchero.
(And Andrew Nembhard just missed out. More on that below.)
Mathurin, who’s just 20 years old, played in 78 of 82 games, second on the Pacers only to veteran Buddy Hield. And he started in the final weeks of the season after he was strategically played (and featured) off the bench for the majority of the season.
Mathurin averaged 16.7 points, 4.1 rebounds and a team-high 5.8 free throw attempts per game. He was second on the team in total points scored and free throws made, third in field goals made despite being sixth in total minutes played.
“I’ve been able to learn a lot in my rookie season,” he said during exit interviews. “Playing 82 games, a season, there’s so much ups and downs. I feel like the biggest thing for me to learn was to be able to play through ups and downs and challenges.
“I’ve always been hard on myself and I feel like I didn’t really accomplish what I wanted to do. I feel like that’s the really good thing about it, to have that chip on my shoulder going into the summer and wanting to work twice as hard as I did last summer and become a better player in general.”
The thing he didn’t like about his first season was not going all-out, 100% every single play. There were times when he admittedly took plays off or didn’t do what he was instructed to do. And so head coach Rick Carlisle pulled him out as a result.
The next thing for Mathurin is becoming more well-rounded offensively and taking more pride on the defensive end. That was Carlisle’s message to him.
“It’s really a blessing to have a coach who is really hard on you and it just proves that he wants the best for you,” he said. “… It’s always a learning session with him so it was obviously a great thing to have him by my side the whole season. Him being strict on me and really hard on me has helped me go through my first season and I’m looking forward to having many more seasons with him as my head coach.”
Mathurin loves basketball. He doesn’t have a ton of hobbies off the court. He was going to try to take a few weeks off after completing a very busy, stressful year — ranging from draft prep to the draft combine, pre-draft workouts and going right into summer league before getting a little time off before training camp.
“It’ll be really hard for me,” Mathurin said of the time off. “Most of my teammates have been saying ‘Yo, you got to take some time off’ — and I get it. You got to take some time off to get your head out of basketball. Playing 82 games is a long season. I don’t know what I’m gonna do yet. I might just sit around my couch and watch movies and play with my dog. I don’t know.”
Mathurin became the 14th Pacer to be voted to an All-Rookie Team, but just the first player earn First Team honors since Rik Smits in 1989. That was also the last time the Pacers selected inside the top 10.
He received 71 first-team votes and 28 second-team votes. So one voter left him off.
What about Andrew Nembhard?
The votes were cast by 100 media members and guard Andrew Nembhard was not on more than half of them.
Nembhard, 23, received 46 second-place votes. He finished in 11th with 46 points, one point behind Houston’s Tari Eason, who received 47 points.
I do want to note, too, that the Indy market no longer has a vote. I did until 2020, when my position at The Athletic was eliminated. I think it’s important for each market to have at least one vote.
Nembhard, the first pick in the second round, wowed the team in camp. He then started in 63 of 75 games played and didn’t look like a first-year player. He was composed, took on their biggest defensive assignment each game and ran the offense when called upon to do so.
If you’re talking about impact by a rookie last season, Nembhard is absolutely part of that conversation. And he was included in the Rising Stars competition at All-Star weekend.
In addition to being the team’s best perimeter defender, Nembhard averaged 9.5 points, 2.7 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game while playing almost 28 minutes per game. As a rookie.
“I’ve really gotten the feel of how it is to play in the league compared to playing in college,” Nembhard said during exit interviews. “I think that will propel my game, understanding what I need to work on and what the team is asking from me.”
How Nembhard’s totals stacked up against fellow rookies:
Second in assists
Third in steals
Seventh in 3-point field goals
Ninth in points
14th in rebounds
“He hit the ground running for us,” said guard T.J. McConnell. “I’ve tried to sing his praises all year about how good he is. He hasn’t played like a rookie at all. His ability to defend the best player on the other team and then run a unit when asked, be a shooting guard and be our Swiss Army knife. He’s done it the entire year at an incredibly high level and players like him are very rare. We’re very lucky to have him.”
And many times throughout the season, Carlisle referenced how when this 2022 class is re-drafted — a popular task in the offseason for front offices and writers alike for review — Nembhard will be a top 10 player or better. And ultimately, that’s all that matters.
As I learned years ago from longtime executive Donnie Walsh, you need to see these young players for at least three seasons before truly evaluating them. Even more time for bigs.
The early returns for these young Pacers, however, are really strong.