Analyst projects Sheppard to go north in NBA Draft

Published 3:54 pm Friday, April 26, 2024

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YahooSports NBA draft analyst Krysten Peek has Kentucky guard Reed Sheppard going No. 6 in the NBA draft to Toronto and teammate Rob Dillingham going No. 7 to Memphis.

Many Kentucky fans were hoping Sheppard might return for a sophomore season but Peek knew better.

“Anybody who thought he would come back because of NIL money needs to realize his dream has always been the NBA,” she said. “Maybe a singular NIL deal could be for a couple of million dollars but he’s jeopardizing more money in the NBA and adding another year before he can get a second contract if he stays in school. It was just being delusional to think he would be back or even transfer to Arkansas (to play for John Calipari).”

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Peek was one of the few college basketball writers who predicted before UK even played exhibition games in Canada in July that Sheppard would be a valuable contributor for Kentucky last season. He became the national freshman of the year

“This is a draft with a dip in talent. Whether it is Reed, Rob, Justin (Edwards) or whoever stays in the draft they are going to be drafted on their upside and not coming in and playing right away,” she said.

If Sheppard goes in the top 10 as expected, he would be a higher draft pick than former UK players Tyrese Maxey, Jamal Murray, Devin Booker and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — all current NBA stars.

“It is the coach Cal effect. NBA teams know his track record and know five-star guards do not always translate well in the Calipari system but are better pros,” Peek said. “They can also see how productive Reed and Rob were in one year. It’s easier to take a gamble and stay in the good grace of the fan base and owners if you take a one-and-done Kentucky guard. Look at what the rest of them have done in the NBA. They might not have won a championship at Kentucky but they have been great in the NBA.”

Peek knows the exact draft order is still in flux. Some players helped themselves in the NCAA Tournament and one team might just take a fancy to a particular player.

“This could be a draft where you kind of choose your own adventure,” Peek said. “There could be a team or GM laser focused on one player that could shake the draft order up. I think picks four to 11 you could mix and match a lot of players and it would not surprise me to see Reed or Rob go up or down a little from where I have them now.”