In a recruiting class that was ranked first nationally with several five-star prospects, not many saw the emergence of Kentucky’s Reed Sheppard as arguably the most heralded Wildcat on the roster. Sheppard, a fan-favorite for a multitude of reasons, has come on strong and firmly cemented himself as a potential first-round pick in the 2024 NBA Draft.
Sheppard has won over the hearts of Kentucky fans with his inspiring play on both ends of the floor. Growing up a mere 80 minutes away from Rupp Arena in London, Kentucky surely plays a part in the fans’ fixation on the 19-year-old, too. He’s a hometown kid.
In this Draft Profile, I’ll be showcasing the reasons why Sheppard has shot up draft boards since the start of the season.
- Shoots a good ball. Clean mechanics. Opens the year shooting a sizzling 59% from three-point range but has also shown the capability of shooting off the dribble in the mid-range.
- Strong handle. Has created much more than was anticipated and a lot of that factors into his strong start to the season.
- His creation goes beyond just scoring for himself. Good, smart passer (3.8 APG) and often turns his defense into a scoring opportunity. More of a connecting piece as a distributor.
- Stays balanced. He’s not the strongest kid, but can stop on a dime and rise up and down in the lane for a short jumper.
- Major pest defensively. Gets into your chest and makes you uncomfortable in the full-court and the half-court. Averaging a ridiculous 3.0 steals per game.
- Doesn’t have the ideal height for a tweener guard at 6’3”, but has the understanding of where to be and often sees plays develop. Perhaps most importantly – he has the heart.
- Quick hands and quick lateral movement. Stays in front of his man and can contest. Just a truly elite guard defender.
- Not an explosive athlete. He’s not the kind of guy that’s going to blow past you and dunk over your center.
- Capped role. Some of the on-ball flashes are nice, but at the next level, his role as a “3&D” connector at the guard position is where he’s going to make his money. Some will prefer an upside play.
- While he is a solid playmaker, he isn’t good enough to be a full-time point guard. 6’3” point > 6’3” combo.
- The only complaint I have with his defense is that… he is small. The unfortunate reality of this sport is that sometimes, there’s nothing you can do when a bigger player plows into you.
It may seem a bit lazy, but I do see some similarities between Sheppard and Bulls guard Alex Caruso. I think Caruso is the better defender, but Sheppard is the better shooter. Perhaps former Bulls guard, Kirk Hinrich, is a better comparison?
Projected Draft Range
While I currently have Sheppard as a lottery pick on my board, I’m not convinced that NBA teams are *quite* there with him just yet. Nevertheless, I think it’s safe to put Sheppard’s range right now at 15-30. He’s a first-round pick.
As a fan of the Utah Jazz, I can confidently say that they desperately need a defender in the backcourt. However, Sheppard would be more of a trade option for them. He’d fit on any playoff team. Indiana also needs the defense. He could be a good replacement for De’Anthony Melton if the 76ers aren’t confident about retaining him.
Reed Sheppard’s rise into the draft conversation is legit. That’s not to say he wasn’t on anyone’s radar beforehand, but I don’t think many had him as a first-rounder in preseason, or as a one-and-done for that matter. He has an elite-level skill from day one and it’s easy to see him having a decade-long career as a rotational mainstay.