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Rookie Spotlight: Banchero, Mathurin and Ivey

We are more or less bang on one-moth since the NBA season kicked off, and every year there is a new batch of rookies who are out to impress.

Whether it’s justifying their selection as the #1 overall pick, or trying to prove the league wrong by out-performing their draft position, each player is attempting to prove they belong at the elite level and forge the start of their career.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at three rookies who have impressed thus far!

Paolo Banchero – Orlando Magic (#1 overall pick)

As the #1 overall selection, perhaps it’s no surprise to have Banchero as the first player to be mentioned here. I was on the record multiple times as saying Jabari Smith Jr was my choice as the #1 pick (more on his struggles another time), but Banchero has, so far, made it clear I was wrong.

There are rough spots to Banchero’s game, but generally speaking, they are few and far between based on what we’ve seen from his first eleven appearances as a professional. His three point shooting is a measly 25.6% on four attempts per game, and he is currently turning the ball over three times per contest, but otherwise, Banchero has been not only solid, but remarkably consistent.

Paolo Banchero has justified his #1 overall selection by the Magic, being productive and consistent in his first stint as a pro.

With eight of his eleven outings resulting in somewhere between 20 and 30 points (average of 23.5ppg on the season) and a low water mark of just 15, Banchero has not only been able to impact games on the scoreboard, but do it in a reliable fashion. Throw in the fact that he’s grabbed double digit rebounds three times and registered 4 or more assists in more than half of his games, and you get a picture of how Banchero is able to impact the game on both ends.

Beyond the stats though is simply the eye test, and there are few rookies that have looked as comfortable at the elite level as Banchero has. His NBA ready body and ability to seek contact when going to the rim make him perfect for the modern NBA, and once his three point shot improves, that will only make the rest of his offensive arsenal more potent.

Bennedict Mathurin – Indiana Pacers (#6 overall pick)

The man who Hunter claimed had the name of a 15th century artist, Mathurin (Eggs Benny) was one of the names leading into the draft that most casual fans were a little lacking on when it came to knowledge. Regardless of whether this was because of his projected draft position or the debate around the big 3 at the top of the draft hogging most of the oxygen in the room, Mathurin has most definitely exceeded expectations.

Coming into a Pacers system, Mathurin could’ve easily succumbed to being stuck behind a multitude of player in the back court and on the wings, with newly acquired Tyrese Haliburton given the keys to the franchise, Chris Duarte established after a solid rookie campaign last season and Buddy Hield possibly given ample opportunity to increase his trade value. Instead, Mathurin has simply won playing time by being the most reliable shooter, draining 42.7% of his shots from range.

Bennedict Mathurin has been a surprise packet for Pacers fans, and is shooting an elite clip from three so far this season.

Mathurin is more than just a deep-range deadeye though. He routinely shoots better than 50% from the floor overall, accomplishing this feat in six of his fifteen games this in his short career, and has failed to register an assist in just two appearances. Despite his smaller size at 6’6” and just 210lbs, he also routinely hits the glass, racking up an average of around four boards per contest.

There are areas to work on for Mathurin, such as his ability to play passing lanes and better positioning overall on defense to avoid picking up unnecessary fouls. For a player who was taken #6 overall to a rebuilding team to contribute like this, though, is a major win for the Pacers.

Jaden Ivey – Detroit Pistons (#5 overall pick)

I was really high on Ivey as a talent coming into the Draft, and was stoked to see he wasn’t chosen by the Kings at #4 because I thought it might prevent him from realising his potential (sorry, Kings fans). Since arriving in Detroit though, he’s been better than even I thought was reasonable.

Ivey instantly drew comparisons to Ja Morant due to his hair and play-style. Like Memphis’ lead guard, Ivey possesses elite speed and change-of-direction ability with the ball, allowing him to bamboozle or straight up blow by any defender in nearly any situation. Ivey is obviously not the same player Morant is overall, but through 17 games, the similarities are noticeable.

Jaden Ivey has impressed Pistons fans with his speed and crafty play-making: Credit: Detroit Bad Boys

What has impressed me the most though is Ivey’s craftiness with the ball when it comes to play-making. A kid who has the ability to blow by anyone guarding him can usually make some bone-headed plays, and without implying Ivey is completely immune from this as a young guard, he generally remains remarkably composed and aware of where his teammates are at all times. His assist numbers could be even higher if the Pistons put the ball in his hands more, however they prefer the ball in the hands of Cade Cunningham when he’s available.

Ivey has the lowest average plus-minus out of the trio I’ve mentioned here (Mathurin is the only of the three to post a positive plus-minus) but the eye test is not only elite with Jaden, but it’s fun as hell too.

So what do you think?

Let me know by signing up for an account and commenting on this post, or by emailing the show at!

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