Emergence of Ben Sheppard key for the future of the Indiana Pacers

With Buddy Hield now in Philly, the Indiana Pacers are trusting Ben Sheppard to be a key shooting guard firmly in the rotation for the rest of the season.

Feb 1, 2024; New York, New York, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Ben Sheppard (26) watches his three point
Feb 1, 2024; New York, New York, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Ben Sheppard (26) watches his three point / Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

An unfortunate part of the Indiana Pacers getting shellacked by the Pelicans on Friday night was the unavailability of Ben Sheppard. The rookie missed the game due to an illness. With home him and Doug McDermott out, that opened up minutes for Jarace Walker, who played quite well.

Still, Sheppard has become a valuable part of the Pacers' rotation. The rookie shooting guard got playing time earlier in the year based on his defense. Yet, he wasn't firmly in the rotation because he still couldn't hit the open threes that he was getting from T.J. McConnell and Tyrese Haliburton.

Sheppard has remedied the issue of missing open shots. He actually hit all of his threes against the Pelicans on Wednesday. His effort on defense gives the Pacers some more versatility in the front-court off the bench. It's also true when Andrew Nembhard isn't hitting his shots.

The Indiana Pacers need Ben Sheppard to continue to develop

Shooting is much-needed on this team with Haliburton as the point guard. He's the passer in the NBA and will find open guys before they even know that they are open. The Pacers need guys who can hit the open threes that Haliburton gets them. Aaron Nesmith has done that extremely well in the starting lineup.

McConnell does the same thing for the bench unit. His probing in the lane makes people collapse on him and he can kick it out to guys open on the perimeter. Sheppard couldn't hit those threes prior to the All-Star break and that's why his playing time wasn't as high.

Now, that Sheppard has gotten his shooting fixed, he is now a key part of this bench unit. He's firmly in the rotation and is a big part of the future of this team. Sheppard is the biggest reason why Indiana felt comfortable enough to ship Buddy Hield off to Philly.

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If he keeps hitting his threes and plays the tough defense he's known for, he's got a shot to earn the starting two-guard position over Nembhard in certain matchups. He just needs to keep developing and doing the little things to improve as an NBA player.