Reed Sheppard: 2024 Draft Outlook

Following a dynamic season at Kentucky, Reed Sheppard looks like a shoe-in to be a top
10 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. With a picture perfect 3-point stroke and a surprising level of vertical athleticism—Sheppard’s 42” max vertical leap was the best at the combine—teams will be lining up for the services of the prolific 2-guard. Question marks about Sheppard’s height (6’1.75” without shoes), and lack of perceived all-star upside may be the leading cause for most draft analysts not viewing Sheppard in quite the same tier as other prospects like Zaccharie Risacher and Alexandre Sarr. But once those names are off the board, Sheppard may very well be the best prospect left.

For many players, March Madness presents an opportunity to further showcase their talents against some of the best competition across the country. For players like Dalton Knecht, Donovan Clingan, and Stephon Castle, deep tournament runs surely helped to cement their names toward the top end of the draft. For Sheppard however, Kentucky was bounced in the opening round of the tournament, robbing the national audience of the opportunity to see what he, and the rest of his Wildcat teammates, were capable of on the game’s biggest stage. With that being said, Sheppard did have an absurd 3-point conversion rate of 52.4% during the regular season, so his place amongst the top players in the draft still remains sturdy. But it is still worth pondering: if he had had an electric tournament run similar to other small but prolific outside shooting guards like Jimmer Fredette or Stephen Curry, would he potentially be in play for the first overall pick in the draft?

At the college level, Reed Sheppard was a dangerous 3-point parksman first, and an on-ball playmaker second. Depending on how much he is able to work on and improve his ball handling and overall offensive creativity, his role at the NBA level will likely be very similar.

The most obvious, and commonly used NBA comparison for Sheppard is Donte Divenzenzo, but his game also carries shades of Grayson Allan, Devonte Graham, and Jeremy Lin. Whatever team decides to select Sheppard will not only be getting a gritty, smart, versatile player, but also very likely the best shooter in the draft.

Although early on in the draft process a lack of elite star-level talent led to some uncertainty at the top of the draft, as draft night approaches, more and more mock drafts seem to be penciling in Sheppard in as the third player to come off the board. If Sheppard does indeed end up going third overall to the Houston Rockets, the fit will be almost like a glove—for both him and the franchise. While the Rockets current roster is loaded with young talent including the likes of Jalen Green, Alperan Sengun, Amen Thomspon, and Jabari Smith Jr., recent veteran additions including Fred VanVleet, Dillon Brooks, and head coach Ime Udoka also indicate that Houston is eager to be a competitive team. Despite Sheppard’s youth, he should be able to be an early contributor due to the spacing he will inevitably bring to the court. Additionally, with VanVleet already in place, Sheppard will not be expected to be saddled with too many ball handling responsibilities. With that being said, a year or two down the line, after learning from a crafty veteran like VanVleet, Sheppard may be ready to take over full time as the Rockets lead ball handler.

While Sheppard may never make an All-NBA or even an All-Star team, he does seem like a safe bet to be at the very least a useful role player, if not a very solid starter. With so many similarly gifted floor spacers occupying key roles on teams in the NBA, it’s not hard to envision Sheppard carving out a nice career for himself. Additionally, when you look at the track record of Kentucky guards in the NBA—Devin Booker, Tyrese Maxey, Tyler Herro, John Wall, Immanuel Quickley, just to name a few—the level of success speaks for itself. Sheppard may not be the highest upside prospect in his class, but there is a very real non zero percent chance that he could eventually emerge as the highest impact player of the 2024 NBA Draft.

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