Indiana Pacers Post-Draft Grades: The Good, The Bad, and the Guards

Jarace Walker, Indiana Pacers (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Jarace Walker, Indiana Pacers (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /
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Ben Sheppard, Belmont University
Ben Sheppard, Belmont University /

Ben Sheppard (Round 1: Pick 26)

Now I’m going to be totally honest here and admit that I don’t know much about Ben Sheppard. To be completely honest, I was expecting a pick like Leonard Miller or even Nick Smith Jr. at this slot, so hearing Sheppard’s name surprised me. I did a little digging on him and saw that he is only the third Belmont basketball player to be drafted in the NBA, the first 2 being Joe Gaines in 1972 and Dylan Windler in 2019, respectively.

He was also very happy to be selected by the Pacers, as evident by his draft reaction video.

Sheppard is a prototypical 3-and-D wing who stood out in his 4 seasons at Belmont on both ends of the court. Sheppard has a smooth and clean stroke from 3, shooting 41.5% on 6 attempts a game as a senior while averaging close to 19 points a game. Sheppard also has a surprising ability and confidence in initiating the offense and getting his shot off the dribble. He is also a decent playmaker, averaging 3 assists per game in college which can partially be attributed to the fact that he grew up as a point guard before a late growth spurt.

However, Sheppard’s main calling card on offense is his shooting, with his quick and high release allowing him to get shots up at will, even without much space on the perimeter. He has also shown potential as a slasher who can get the contact at the rim and even get to the free throw line, shooting 4 free throws a game in his senior year. Sheppard has proven that he is more than just a shooter on offense and is still working on his game. On defense, Sheppard shines on the perimeter, as he can guard 1-3 and even smaller power forwards if the matchup calls for it and is great at contesting outside jumpers, while also averaging 1.4 steals per game as a senior. His rebounding is also a plus, as he averaged 5.2 a game as a senior at the guard position.

At Belmont, he showed a very clear understanding of his role, as he switched from the go-to guy to a star role player and let his teammates shine, as was seen in his breakout performance at the NBA Draft Combine.

However, Sheppard is not exactly the athlete that Jarace Walker is, with him maxing out at just a 35.5-inch vertical. He’s also not the fastest guy in the gym, mostly relying on quickness and shiftiness to get his shot rather than outrunning guys. In addition to this, the selection of Sheppard also calls into question the Pacers loaded guard play, as he now joins a rotation of Buddy Hield, Chris Duarte, Bennedict Mathurin, Mojave King (who was taken 47th), and Kendrick Brown. Going into the season, it will be interesting to see how Rick Carlisle distributes the minutes in the guard position and where Sheppard fits into this puzzle.

However, the main gripe with Sheppard, and perhaps the reason why he fell to 26 in the draft, is that he turns 22 in less than a month, which severely puts a ceiling on his upside. We have seen the Pacers take low-ceiling, high-floor guys in the past with Duarte and Sheppard’s ceiling will probably be that of a high-quality role player so this should not mean too much at the NBA level.

For Ben Sheppard, the most Pacers fans should expect out of him is a decent 3-and-D role player who can come off the bench and give you a spark, a la Justin Holiday. All things considered, I’m not mad with this pick at all, and I really think Ben can carve a place for himself on this Pacers roster.

Final Grade: B (Decent 3-and-D wing, will most likely benefit from learning from Buddy Hield, and a pretty good pick at 26)