Pacers Summer League Grades: Bennedict Mathurin dominates, Aaron Nesmith debuts

The Indiana Pacers looked like Summer League contenders again in a dominant effort against the Detroit Pistons as they won 101-87 behind rookie Bennedict Mathurin’s best performance in Las Vegas so far.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see Jaden Ivey in this matchup after he tweaked his ankle in Pistons previous game, but the Pacers starters bounced back from the previous game and made this an entertaining one for fans to watch. Let’s dive right into the grades.

Bennedict Mathurin – A+

Mathurin airballed his first 3-pointer of the night and then just destroyed the Pistons defense at every opportunity. He finished with 20 points (5 of 9), 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, and 0 turnovers in 19 minutes. He got to the free-throw line 10 times in this one (9 of 10). After he hit a step-back jumper early in the first quarter, he turned to the crowd and shouted, “I’m the best one out here!” He wasn’t lying.

Mathurin attacked the basket early and often repeatedly either putting the ball in at the rim or drawing fouls. At times, Mathurin will turn into a running back on his drives after picking up his dribble he’ll hold the ball high and tight like he’s Tiki Barber trying to avoid a fumble. Don’t think it’s either a negative or positive tendency right now, just something you can see him do on some of his drives. Tonight he was beating the Pistons going left, right, whatever way he wanted to go.

His defensive effort tonight was great which was a theme for the Pacers as a whole after they let the Kings torch them in the previous game. There was one rotation that he was a little late to make but he made a great effort to rush out to an open corner shooter and forced the miss. Active hands led to three steals. He almost threw down a vicious tip dunk in the second half as well. An all-around great game for the Pacers rookie, it wouldn’t be surprising if this happens to be his last game in Summer League play. His three assists were two more than he had total in the previous two games, this pass to Isaiah Jackson in transition was an unselfish one to set up his big man.

Aaron Nesmith – B+

Nesmith was full of energy. He looked determined to prove his worth to his new team with his effort on both ends. He scored a quick five points while being very aggressive with the ball with a nice floater and then a 3-pointer early. He finished with 12 points (4 of 10), 7 rebounds, 2 steals, and 4 turnovers.

I came away impressed and intrigued by his talent and energy. No play was more impressive than this one-handed interception steal that then led to him dunking on the other end.

Nesmith got into ball-handlers on the defensive end and crashed the glass as well. He looks like a fun wing that has a nice opportunity to jump start his career with the Pacers. Pacers coach Rick Carlisle mentioned on the broadcast that he can relate to Nesmith as a young player on a championship contending Celtics team where you can’t make mistakes or the veterans are going to be coming in for you as he had the same scenario in his own playing career with the Larry Bird Celtics playing behind Dennis Johnson and Danny Ainge. Perhaps being with Indiana will allow Nesmith to play more free and reach his potential as another 2020 lottery pick.

Isaiah Jackson – A

Jackson bounced back from his worst performance in Vegas to his best one. He finished with 14 points on six dunks and no missed shots. Multiple lob finishes and vicious throwdowns including this one that looked like one of those NBA Jam dunks where the player jumps out of the screen before coming back down to Earth.

Jackson outplayed first-round pick Jalen Duren who had to play during garbage time to get the majority of his 12 points. Duren did have a nice post-move against Jackson early but the human pogo-stick’s defense was a highlight overall in this one. He blocked two 3-pointers in less than 60 seconds of game time showing off his ability to defend on switches and finished with four blocks and a steal. He also added four rebounds and two assists. I’m still not sure how he squeezed this dunk in between the defenders.

Terry Taylor – A

Terry Taylor just looks too good for Summer League. He did a ton of damage on drives and his usual offensive rebounding goodness. He almost had a double double at halftime and finished with 14 points (6 of 9), 9 rebounds, and 2 assists in 21 minutes. I just have no notes. He’s good. Everyone knows it at this point.

Andrew Nembhard – B

Nembhard looked a lot more in control once again after a rough second game. He did have one more bad turnover where he drove into traffic without purpose and lost the ball. Outside of that, he was solid with modest statistics of 6 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds. He had a perfect pass to a rolling Isaiah Jackson early.

My favorite play of Nembhard’s didn’t even show up on the box score but he had a fantastic touch pass in transition to a streaking Kendall Brown that was placed in stride and on target. It was a really impressive play that highlight’s Brown’s feel and instincts for the game.

Kendall Brown – A-

Speaking of Brown, he’s been the Pacers second-most impressive rookie in these three games. I wrote down “Kendall Brown fast” about 12 times in my notes in this game. He’s just always looking to run and get out in transition. He’s moving so fast that he’s always on the verge of being out of control but more often than not it seems to work in his favor. He finished with 8 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals in 18 minutes.

Normally his most impressive plays come in transition and he did have a fantastic scoop layup and he assisted on the crazy Jackson dunk but he made some great plays in the half-court in this one as well including a nice turnaround baby hook shot and a drive to the basket.

Duane Washington Jr. – C+

Washington’s statistics don’t look too bad tonight with 8 points (3 of 6), 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal, but it’s been a struggle for him to find his jump shot in Las Vegas. His totals from three games are not great.

He had a few bad turnovers in this one as he was back with the bench unit with Nesmith moving into the starting lineup. With a crowded guard rotation and a guarantee date coming soon, he’ll want to find that shooting stroke quick. He could easily go off for 25 in the next game with how hot he can get.

I don’t have many notes on any of the remaining Pacers players for tonight’s game so we’ll do a quick rundown here:

  • Gabe York: Shot the ball well once again, he looked the most confident of this group with shooting the ball. 9 points (3 for 5 from deep)
  • Nate Hinton: Made a fantastic lob to Isaiah Jackson on a drive from the corner but not much else. I love his energy and how hyped he gets for his teammates.
  • Tevin Brown: First minutes for Brown did not go well. I was happy to see one of his 3-pointers go in with less than a minute left. He went 1 for 5.
  • Fanbo Zeng: He just looks a bit overmatched most of the time especially on defense. He did make his only shot attempt.
  • Eli Brooks: He had a turnover that reminded me of the Brad Wanamaker era but he somehow managed three assists in a dreadful stretch to end the game for the Pacers.
  • Jaylen Samuels: Gave up a bunch of lobs to Jalen Duren as he had to help teammates that got beat on drives. He had 2 points and 3 rebounds.
  • Simi Shittu: Has some chemistry with Kendall Brown who seems to find him in scoring positions but he couldn’t capitalize in this one scoring one point on four free throw attempts.

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