The Indiana Pacers made a somewhat shocking selection with the 26th overall pick in Thursday’s NBA draft. Ben Sheppard of Belmont will be added to the Pacers’ young core, and Indiana selected him over high-major talents like Nick Smith Jr. and Brice Sensabaugh.
Most media outlets have Sheppard listed as a big guard, but his 6’6″ frame and knack for spot-up shooting off of screens give him an element of positional versatility. In his senior season at Belmont, Sheppard shot 41.5% from 3-point range on 6 attempts per game. This hot shooting followed him to the NBA Draft Combine and throughout the rest of the pre-draft process.
“We just have a really strong feeling about Sheppard as an organization,” Coach Rick Carlisle expressed in the press conference following the first round of the draft. “Our scouts were all really high on him [and] his workout here was tremendous.” Carlisle went on to say Sheppard could play some point guard, but that his natural position is more of a 2 or 3-wing.
Sheppard has all of the tools to be a 3-and-D player, but his experience at the point guard position gives him a playmaking streak that slots well into the Pacers’ pass-heavy system. He’s a physical, high-effort, defender with a plus wingspan (6’8″) and off-ball awareness that allows him to frequently jump passing lanes for steals. Sheppard has even drawn NBA comparisons to the Knicks’ Quentin Grimes and Heat’s Caleb Martin.
The Pacers entered the draft intending to address the glaring lack of defensive-minded players on the roster.
Ben Sheppard profiles as the physical type of player to fill some of those holes. In his pre-draft workout interview, Sheppard stated, “[I’m] just constantly trying to prove myself. I play with a chip on my shoulder and I try to let that show in places like the combine and workouts like today.” His competitive attitude increases his potential as an immediate contributor and strong two-way asset for the Pacers.
Ben Sheppard is a bit of a swing at pick 26, but he possesses the skills and basketball IQ to be an impactful player in the NBA. His NBA Summer League showings in the coming weeks will provide an important peek into his potential outlook as an NBA player.
Stats and measurements via The Ringer.