Skip to main content

How the Indiana Pacers will have to adjust with Bennedict Mathurin sidelined for the rest of the season

The Pacers won't have Mathurin until next season

ORLANDO — The Indiana Pacers won't have young guard Bennedict Mathurin for the rest of the 2023-24 season. He has a torn labrum in his right shoulder. The news was revealed on Saturday, and the Pacers had to quickly turn around to battle the Orlando Magic on Sunday.

Mathurin had missed just four games this season prior to the injury, and Indiana was 2-2 in those games. He is a quality scorer who developed in other ways in 2024, but he will now be sidelined until training camp next season.

"It's an enormous loss, obviously. A guy that's experiencing a tremendous amount of growth both years," Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said of the young guard on Sunday. He noted that Mathurin's efficiency is better, and both his physicality and defense have become more of a factor in year two.

In 59 outings, Mathurin averaged 14.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game. His rebounding and passing numbers both improved from his rookie season while his per-minute scoring dropped slightly. That tradeoff made Mathurin a better fit as a team player, though, which is significant for his development.

His absence creates a lot of lost production. Mathurin had an important ball handling role with Indiana's second unit, and he often played with the Pacers starters as a shooter and extra slasher. He took over 11 shots per game and averaged over 26 minutes. Mathurin added value and will be tough to replace.

"It's a big loss. There's no secret there. He was very integral to what we were doing this year," Pacers starting center Myles Turner said. They have been teammates for Mathurin's entire career. "I think he was just [finding] his stride, too. 16, 17 points a game, you can't just make up for it like that. But you can make up for it with your depth."

That last note is key. Mathurin had been effective since the All-Star break, averaging 17.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game. There's a reason he was playing an average of more than 30 minutes per night in that stretch — he was producing.

His play style is unique on the Pacers roster. Mathurin drove to the rim often, and he drew a foul at the basket more than any other player on the blue and gold by far. His decision making on drives had become quicker in his second season, and he found counters to score in the lane when he couldn't get all the way to the rim. His shooting percentage from 10-16 feet was way up this season, for example.

The young guard paired that scoring ability with a drastically improved outside shot. His catch-and-shoot three-point percentage jumped about eight points from his rookie campaign to year two, and he paired that with a Pacers-best (among players with more than one attempt per game) 36.4% outing shooting on pull-up jumpers. His scoring variety was important.

"We're going to miss him a lot. Wish him a speedy recovery," Indiana's backup point guard T.J. McConnell said. "But it's a group effort thing. A guy like that who can really score the ball at an elite level goes down, everyone kind of has to step up."

McConnell may be the player with the most added responsibility without Mathurin. He is now by far the best ball handler on the Pacers second unit, so his ability to get into the paint and both distribute and score is more valuable. Recently, Indiana has paired McConnell with stars Tyrese Haliburton and Pascal Siakam more often to keep ball handlers on the court.

"We definitely have a really good bench. Our depth speaks for itself... it's just a next man up mentality. But we're going to miss [Mathurin]," forward Obi Toppin said.

Defensively, Mathurin was a capable on ball defender, which made him an option to close games. His overall impact on defense is still up-and-down, something Mathurin himself admitted throughout the season. But his unique offensive skill set combined with defensive pressure made him a late-game tool at times. His 13 appearances in clutch games this season is the most by any Indiana bench player (less than 20 starts) by far — Jalen Smith is second with seven.

Replacing Mathurin's skills won't be easy. The ball handling and shot attempts have so far been distributed by committee. McConnell, Haliburton, Siakam, and Andrew Nembhard continue to run the show for the blue and gold, and they will all have a slightly higher usage rate going forward. Defensively, Ben Sheppard has assumed many of Mathurin's assignments with the second unit at the guard slots.

Sheppard has played 16 minutes per game since Mathurin's injury. The rookie guard will have an every day rotation spot without Mathurin, but he was already earning the trust of his teammates and playing often. His role won't change much, nor will his minutes.

Filling Mathurin's playing time will instead come by having Sheppard act as a two guard and then having someone backfill Sheppard's wing slot. So far, that someone has been Jarace Walker, who has played in all three games since Mathurin's season ended — albeit with few minutes.

"This presents a great opportunity for Jarace. He's been playing in recent games," Carlisle said. The head coach believes that Walker's physical presence can be valuable going forward.

"We've got to be there for him," Turner added of Walker.

Walker is the tenth man for the Pacers right now, though when Doug McDermott returns from a calf injury he could assume the lottery pick's rotation spot. It's too early to say exactly how that will shake out. But the timing of Mathurin's injury also plays a role in filling his playing time. Indiana is in a playoff seeding race, so every game is important. They are treating each outing like a postseason game, so Indiana's starters are playing more often. That has naturally filled a lot of Mathurin's minutes.

That may not be permanent, but coming off of two big wins, the Pacers have to presently feel good about their rotation. As March progresses and April arrives, perhaps things could change.

Filling Mathurin's minutes is doable — Indiana has depth. Replacing his production is difficult. He's a crafty scorer as well as an evolving shooter and defender. That's a useful piece, and the Pacers won't have it for the rest of the season. They'll have to adjust, and they know it.

  • Bennedict Mathurin to miss the rest of the 2023-24 season for the Indiana Pacers due to a torn right labrum. CLICK HERE.
  • Slow starts, like last week's vs Timberwolves, holding Indiana Pacers back during a key point in the season. CLICK HERE.
  • Indiana Pacers chasing the playoffs and watching the standings as March arrives. CLICK HERE.
  • Myles Turner leads Indiana Pacers to strong start and impressive road win over Oklahoma City Thunder. CLICK HERE.
  • Follow AllPacers on Facebook: All Pacers SI
  • Follow AllPacers on Twitter: @SIPacers