Pacers’ Rick Carlisle explains the impressive play of Bennedict Mathurin

Pacers’ Rick Carlisle explains the impressive play of Bennedict Mathurin

Bennedict Mathurin is off to a great start with the Indiana Pacers, and the sixth pick is not only performing like one of the top rookies this season but also one of the top overall players in the NBA.

Mathurin is averaging 17.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.4 assists on 34% shooting from 3-point range in 39 games. He leads the rookie class in total scoring (678 points) and free throws (190), and is one of two first-year players with multiple 30-point games (Paolo Banchero).

The 20-year-old has emerged as a key player for the Pacers through the first half of the season. He has largely come off of the bench, having only started twice, and is flourishing in that role. In fact, Mathurin leads all reserve players in the league in scoring (658).

Pacers coach Rick Carlisle is impressed by that statistic.

Benn is a unique rookie in that he carries himself like a multiyear veteran. He is aggressive. He is tough-minded. He is aggressive to score and is really anxious to get better and better as a player. He has worked a lot on the defensive end and improved a lot there and is getting better all the time offensively.

As we’re getting to the part of the season where he’s starting to see teams for the second time, teams are making adjustments with the idea, of course, to make it harder for him and this is one of the big tests for young players. He has been very consistent as our top bench scorer. I think he is leading the league in scoring off the bench, which is really impressive for a rookie.

Mathurin is also among the league leaders in another area: Free throws.

He is shooting 81.5% from the free-throw line on six attempts per game. That number ranks second among rookies, behind only Banchero, and is 21st among all players. He has attempted 10 free throws in each of his last three games and hit nine of them on Wednesday versus Philadelphia.

To get those attempts, Mathurin is using his patented jab-step nearly to perfection, and in a variety of ways. He also has great size and strength already as a rookie to drive and finish through contact — he is fifth in the NBA in total drives (267).

“His ability to go to the rim and get fouled — it’s an art and a skill,” teammate T.J. McConnell said. “He has mastered it. He’s playing at an incredibly high level and he bails us out when we need some points. He has pretty much done that all year and we’re lucky to have him.”

Mathurin has been the subject of much praise from the coaching staff and teammates this season. His ability to score in a variety of ways and get to the line at a high clip is rather rare for a rookie, and is paying off in a big way for him and the team.

Said Sixers coach Doc Rivers: “He is going to be special.”

Note: Ky Carlin of Sixers Wire contributed to this story

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Story originally appeared on Rookie Wire