The Indiana Pacers took University of Arizona sophomore Bennedict Mathurin at No. 6 overall in the NBA Draft Thursday night. The selection came right after Purdue University’s Jaden Ivey was picked by the Detroit Pistons.
Mathurin, a 6-foot-6 shooting guard/small forward, averaged 17.7 points. 5.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists last season, when he was named the Pac-12 Player of the Year. He shot 45% from the field, including 36.9% from 3-point range in helping the Wildcats reach the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Mathurin grew up in Montreal and his parents in Haiti.
It was the first time the Pacers had a single-digit draft pick since drafting George McCloud with the No. 9 draft pick in 1989. It followed a 25-57 season, good enough for only 13th in the Eastern Conference in the first season of coach Rick Carlisle’s second stint with Indiana. It was the Pacers’ fewest wins since 1984-85 when they finished 22-60.
Pacers President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard began a rebuild of the team after guards Malcolm Brogdon and T.J. McConnell, forward T.J. Warren and center Myles Turner all had lengthy absences because of injuries.
Warren missed the entire season with a foot injury. Brogdon played in just 36 games while Turner played in 42. McConnell played in 27 games. Both might have been able to play later in the season but were shut down with Pacers’ season going nowhere.
The Pacers traded two-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis to Sacramento in February, acquiring Tyrese Halliburton and Buddy Hield and and Jalen Smith.
With Halliburton, the Pacers appear to finally have a playmaking ball-handler. Indiana’s 2021 first-round pick Chris Duarte had a solid rookie season, averaging 13.1 points.
The Pacers traded Caris LeVert to Cleveland with the main prize being the the 2022 lottery protected first-round pick. Since Cleveland faded and didn’t make the playoffs, that pick will now be lottery protected for 2023.
The Pacers also held the No. 31 pick in the second round, from Houston via Cleveland, and No. 58 from Phoenix.
Jaden Ivey selected No. 5
The Detroit Pistons suddenly have a dynamic backcourt, giving the three-time championship franchise a chance to restore a bit of glory.
The Pistons selected Purdue’s Jaden Ivey with the No. 5 overall pick in the draft on Thursday night, adding desperately needed talent to a team led by point guard Cade Cunningham.
“I fit well with Cade,” Ivey said. “He’s a guy who wants to win and is a very unselfish player. I can play on the ball or off the ball. We can take turns.”
Detroit’s rebuilding plan should get a boost with the addition of a dynamic player with scoring ability. The 6-foot-4, 195-pound Ivey can play point or shooting guard. He averaged 17.3 points last season and made 46% of his shots overall and 36% beyond the 3-point arc for the Boilermakers.
The day before the draft, the Pistons agreed to trade Jerami Grant to Portland for the No. 36 pick overall this year and a first-round pick in 2025. The Olympic gold medalist was due to make $21 million and Detroit didn’t appear to be interested in giving him another contract to be part of its latest rebuild.
The Pistons cleared cap space with the trade, giving them about $44 million available this summer to potentially be a major player in free agency. They also lost a player, who averaged nearly 21 points over the previous two seasons.
Ivey will have opportunities to fill part of the scoring void left by Grant’s departure with shots set up by Cunningham, drafted No. 1 overall last year and unanimously voted to the NBA All-Rookie first team.
While the Pistons hit on their pick last year, they may have missed in 2020 with the selection of guard Killian Hayes at No. 7 overall. Hayes has averaged 6.8 points and 4.5 assists over two seasons.
The franchise does seem to have some other players to build around, including Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart, a pair of players acquired in trades after being drafted in the first round by other teams.
To get the sputtering rebuild going, though, Detroit needs Ivey to pan out after winning just 23 games last year and finishing ahead of only Houston and Orlando in the league.
The Pistons have made the playoffs just twice over the last 13 seasons, following an eight-year run in which they won a third NBA title, fell a win short of repeating and advanced to six straight conference finals.
It would be quite a story if Ivey helps the team’s turnaround.
“Dream come true, coming from my background with Detroit ties,” Ivey said.
His father, Javin Hunter, was born in Detroit and was a star receiver at the University of Notre Dame. His mother, Niele, Notre Dame women’s basketball coach, played for the Detroit Shock in the WNBA in 2005. His late grandfather, James Hunter, started 77 games at defensive back for the Detroit Lions from 1976 to 1982.
“When my agent told me I was going to the Pistons, I just broke down in tears,” Ivey said. “Grandpa is up in heaven smiling right now,” Ivey said.