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Bennedict Mathurin earns first team NBA All-Rookie nod
Andrew Nembhard just missed second team nod.
The Pacers had two exceptional rookies this season in Bennedict Mathurin and Andrew Nembhard. They both started the season strong and remained consistent for the most part throughout the season. Welp, what we learned from the All-Rookie voting is that it is better to start slow and show improvement than to just be good from the get go.
On Monday, the NBA released the All-Rookie teams with Mathurin earning a first team spot and Nembhard just missing out on a second team nod.
NBA awards voters are notorious for trying to outsmart the room which usually leads to overthinking the voting for postseason awards. It is a strange form of group think by trying to be anti-group think. It’s quite humorous on the surface until you realize contract values are tied to the awards.
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The stakes aren’t as high for the All-Rookie team, but the votes usually expose deserving players who often perform above their draft position. That described Pacers rook, Bennedict Mathurin throughout the bulk of his rookie season, but definitely through the first two months. He was considered the consensus second best rook when he burst on the scene attacking the rim, drawing fouls and generally begging for all of the smoke opponents could throw at him.
But Rick Carlisle was looking far past Mathurin’s rookie season as he kept the rook coming off the bench and often used defensive breakdowns to keep his young talent in check. Even if he didn’t love it, Mathurin craved the tough love from his coach which was a situation not unlike Paul George’s rookie year when he arrived without much of a defensive reputation but endured the real tough love of Jim O’Brien (which PG still resents, but recently acknowledged made him the player he is now) before Frank Vogel eventually tapped into the talent PG had to offer at both ends of the floor.
So while, Mathurin was learning the hard way throughout the season, Walker Kessler and Jalen Williams developed into high impact players for their teams. Other rookies like Jaden Ivey and Jabari Smith were given big minutes started putting up bigger numbers which drew attention away from Mathurin to the point, it Mathurin was well out of the Rookie of the Year conversation, even when the anti-group think group thinkers were floating his name above Paolo Banchero early in the year when Banchero was hurt.
But, alas, Mathurin held onto the fifth and final spot in the voting for first team NBA All-Rookie, a spot he deserved and earned with his play from day one of the season while still finishing second in scoring among all rookies.
The Pacers ‘other’ rookie, Andrew Nembhard actually had a bigger impact on the Pacers this season, starting 63 games while playing a variety of roles on both ends of the floor, including his natural point guard spot, throughout the season. Along with Walker Kessler, Nembhard exceeded his draft position as the first pick in the second round. If leaning on the All-Rookie votes, Nembhard would be the 11th pick in a re-draft which is close to the top ten re-draft position Carlisle often cited after games.
Nembhard was solid running the team, a pretty good shooter with a little funk in his shot, but similar to Mathurin, defense dictated his early minutes and his success in carving out a starting role next to Tyrese Haliburton. While his game doesn’t have a lot of flash, Nemhard had some flashy moments during the season. Nembhard’s initial intro into ‘wait a minute, we have something special in this second round pick’ land, was when Carlisle had him guard and contest Tyler Herro as the Heat’s big shot guard was unable to score with the Pacers up two, as the Pacers secured an impressive early season win over Miami.
At the other end of the floor, Haliburton found Nembhard for a game winner in LeBron’s eye to beat the Lakers in La La Land. Both big plays were before the end of November. Like Mathurin, Nemhard is never afraid of the moment and able to execute at a high level. Looking at the voting, it seems strange that Tari Eason earned two first team votes which nudged him ahead of Nembhard, but there’s no doubt many of the voters didn’t watch the Pacers much this season, failing to appreciate the consistent effort both rookies delivered.
But just like the team overall, the great feels the rooks (and team) delivered compared to preseason expectations were fun to follow, but now it is time to move on as the success of the players and team will no longer be judged on consistent play but rather consistent wins.
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