2. Ben Sheppard
Ben Sheppard is an interesting case. Coming into the league out of Belmont, only the third Belmont basketball player to be drafted in the NBA, expectations for Sheppard were relatively low.
For starters, some fans did not love the pick as they did not think Indiana needed another wing player, and if they did, were expecting them to take someone like Leonard Miller or Nick Smith Jr.
However, Sheppard impressed enough in Summer League with his shooting and overall scoring ability to sway fans in his direction going into the preseason. However, if he were to impress in preseason, Sheppard would need to display the two things that made him a first-round pick in the first place: Shooting and defense.
And provide those he did, as Sheppard also had a fantastic preseason debut along with Walker, where he showed signs of the range and all-around play that could lead to him being a rotation player right out of the gate.
In fact, Sheppard’s third three of the game came from an assist by Walker himself, exciting Indiana Pacers fans further that they had perhaps struck gold on the second draft in a row.
The Walker-Sheppard connection kept showing signs of improving during the first game, as Sheppard also showed some of his finishing ability with impressive layups around the rim on the fastbreak.
All in all, Ben Sheppard had a great first preseason game, and unlike Jarace Walker, he was able to carry that into a solid preseason overall, as he averaged 9.5 points, three rebounds, and made three three-pointers in three of his four games.
In addition to the shooting ability, Sheppard also showed some of his defense with a nice block, further proving his spot in the rotation and making it even harder for Rick Carlisle to deny the talent of the 22-year-old.
Along with his impressive play on the court, Sheppard also excelled at getting the bench hyped, as this corner three had Tyrese Haliburton and the rest of the bench dancing and having a great time.
All in all, I would say that Ben Sheppard had a more impressive preseason than Jarace Walker and is well on his way to earning a rotation spot in his very first season, which is very impressive considering the depth of this team, especially on the wing.
Sheppard’s fantastic play has also caught the eyes of his teammates and coach Carlisle, who have showered the youngster with praise and lauded him for understanding his role on the team.
Only time will tell how much and how well he plays in his rookie season, but if the preseason is anything to go by, Ben Sheppard is on track to be one of the best young shooters in the league in no time.
Final Grade: B- (Showed signs of being a great shooter, might be good enough to be in the rotation from Day 1)