Kyle Smedley is a journalism and telecommunications major and writes for The Daily News. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.
As I sat at Buffalo Wild Wings in Muncie, Indiana, with four of my close friends as the 2022 NBA Draft began, anticipation filled my mind as I wondered who the Indiana Pacers were going to select with the No. 6 pick in said draft.
Would it be Indiana native Jaden Ivey, who could potentially fall to No. 6? Could it be the relatively unknown Shaedon Sharpe from the University of Kentucky? Or could it be the Pacific American Conference (PAC)-12 Player of the Year, Bennedict Mathurin?
As time passed and the top three selections didn't go according to my initial predictions, my anticipation built as our highest draft pick since 1988 grew closer. Ordering a buy-one-get-one-free order of chicken wings was the furthest thing from my mind.
Ivey was selected by the Detroit Pistons one pick ahead of the Pacers' pick, therefore, I felt there were only two options for Indiana at No. 6 if they kept their pick and only one that I would be happy with. When NBA Commissioner Adam Silver approached the podium to say, "With the sixth pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, the Indiana Pacers select, Bennedict Mathurin," I breathed a sigh of relief as my friends and I celebrated the selection around the table.
Mathurin was not only who I predicted the Pacers to pick, it's who I wanted them to pick. With Tyrese Haliburton and Chris Durate solidifying our point guard and shooting guard positions for the foreseeable future, and Isaiah Jackson emerging as a potentially great big man for Indiana, I felt the Pacers needed desperate help at a wing position, which is exactly what Mathurin provides.
At 6'6" and 210 pounds, Mathurin is an explosive athlete that showcases tremendous athletic ability and should provide the Pacers with yet another scoring option and a player who has room to improve defensively, while not being a liability on that end either. The former University of Arizona athlete also shows a fiery passion for the game of basketball that should make him especially popular in Indiana, a state with deep roots in the sport.
In an interview shortly after he was drafted by Indiana, Mathurin sat with his mother and his sister, who accompanied him to the draft, and when asked what the Pacers are getting from him, he responded without hesitation, "they're getting my heart."
Indiana still has work to do this off-season, whether they want to compete or not, but this is another great step in the Pacers front office's effort to assemble a great young core. A few of my biggest wishes for the rest of the off-season?
Trade Malcolm Brogdon and Myles Turner for a return that includes future first-round picks or a young player with potential, find a way to trade for Atlanta Hawks power forward John Collins and sign former Golden State Warriors center Kevon Looney to a two or three-year deal, using the mid-level exception.
2022 NBA Draft: First-round selections
1. Orlando Magic draft Paolo Banchero (Duke)
2. Oklahoma City Thunder draft Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga)
3. Houston Rockets draft Jabari Smith (Auburn)
4. Sacramento Kings draft Keegan Murray (Iowa)
5. Detroit Pistons draft Jaden Ivey (Purdue)
6. Indiana Pacers draft Bennedict Mathurin (Arizona)
7. Portland Blazers draft Shaedon Sharpe (Kentucky)
8. New Orleans Pelicans draft Dyson Daniels (G League Ignite)
9. San Antonio Spurs draft Jeremy Sochan (Baylor)
10. Washington Wizards draft Johnny Davis (Wisconsin)
11. New York Knicks draft Ousmane Dieng (New Zealand Breakers) — Traded to OKC
12. Oklahoma City Thunder draft Jalen Williams (Santa Clara)
13. Charlotte Hornets draft Jalen Duren (Memphis) — Traded to DET in 3-team deal
14. Cleveland Cavaliers draft Ochai Agbaji (Kansas)
15. Charlotte Hornets draft Mark Williams (Duke)
16. Atlanta Hawks draft A.J. Griffin (Duke)
17. Houston Rockets draft Tari Eason (LSU)
18. Chicago Bulls draft Dalen Terry (Arizona)
19. Minnesota Timberwolves draft Jake LaRavia (Wake Forest) — Reportedly traded to MEM
20. San Antonio Spurs draft Malaki Branham (Ohio State)
21. Denver Nuggets draft Christian Braun (Kansas)
22. Memphis Grizzlies draft Walker Kessler (Auburn) — Reportedly traded to MIN
23. Philadelphia 76ers draft David Roddy (Colorado State) — Traded to MEM
24. Milwaukee Bucks draft MarJon Beauchamp (G League Ignite)
25. San Antonio Spurs draft Blake Wesley (Notre Dame)
26. Dallas Mavericks draft Wendell Moore Jr. (Duke) — Reportedly traded to MIN
27. Miami Heat draft Nikola Jovic (Mega Mozzart)
28. Golden State Warriors draft Patrick Baldwin Jr. (Milwaukee)
29. Memphis Grizzlies draft TyTy Washington Jr. (Kentucky) — Reportedly traded to MIN
30. Oklahoma City Thunder draft Peyton Watson (UCLA) — Traded to DEN