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Ben Sheppard born to run with the Pacers
The Pacers rookie showed in preseason that he's ready to help the Pacers when they are ready to let him play.
Pacers rookie Ben Sheppard is the type of player I have always envied. A cardio savant who can run all day without ever appearing fatigued. Like elite distance runners who can sprint for a mile or three or 26.2. Always thought that would be fun were I capable, even for one day.
Sheppard is capable.
“I think it comes naturally,” Sheppard said of his of his ability to run all day. “I do things that keep my body in shape and keep my conditioning at a high level, but yeah.”
Yeah, as in Shep was built for this. Most track people will tell you the hardest running events are the middle distance races whether that be the 400 meter or 800 meter races. Others say the 300 meter or 400 meter hurdles. Sheppard ran the 400 and 800 in high school, along with the hurdles.
Of course he did. The kid was born to run.
That natural ability fits in well with the type of player the Pacers want on the wing. After Sheppard’s preseason showing, you can see why the Pacers scouts were pounding the table, as Chad Buchanan has said, emphasizing the way Sheppard would fit this current Pacers team.
With Tyrese Haliburton holding the reigns of the offense, if a player can’t hunt buckets on the run, he will eventually find a spot in the rotation. The Pacers scouts saw that Sheppard can indeed run and shoot, so he looked like a future prospect to add to the mix out of Belmont.
The future may be sooner than expected, as Sheppard revealed in preseason games that not only can he run, but the rook can knock down open catch-and-shoot three AND defend his man on the perimeter. All of these are qualities laid out by the team for a spot in the rotation. The current rotation.
With the bogged down rotation at his position, Sheppard will have to take random minutes when he can get them to begin the season. But should the opportunity arise, Carlisle won’t hesitate to use the rook.
Sheppard was the first player mentioned when the Pacers coach was asked by Kevin Bowen on 107.5 The Fan to point out a player or two who impressed him the most in training camp.
“Ben Sheppard has gotten a lot of attention because he’s gone in and done some very positive things, “ Carlisle said. “He plays a style of game that is pretty joyous when you watch it. I mean, the guy is one of the fastest guys running the floor I’ve ever seen. He’s athletic, he’s just figuring a lot of things out.”
Carlisle pointed out, Sheppard played four years at a quality Belmont program and being 23 years old instead of 19 or 20 makes a difference. Actually, Shep just turned 22 in July, regardless his game is more advanced than say, rookie Jarace Walker.
“But he’s shown, he’s ready to play if called upon,” Carlise said.
We can see where this is heading, right? A player who can shoot like Buddy Hield and defend like Bruce Brown? The only question remains is if he’s built for it over the long term and can assume that type of major role in two or three years. But answering those questions should start now.
My initial concerns about the easy smile and happy-go-lucky vibes that Sheppard exposed after the draft, and really any time he’s in front of the media, was that he just seemed happy to be in the NBA, getting an opportunity.
Lo and behold, there is some dawg in Sheppard and the Pacers may have hit big on the late first round pick. This goes back to the running mentality. I know a couple of elite local runners who are now in college, but are the nicest, sweetest girls you could ever meet. I’ve seen them compete in dozens of races, usually winning and doing so with a smile while remaining humble in victory. At some point, I realized they both have a deviant alter ego they can tap into during a race that lifts them to a level others aren’t able to.
Again, wouldn’t that be fun?
Sheppard has shown when steps on the court, that his friendly demeanor means nothing. He’s ready to run on offense and stop his opponent from running by him on defense. The below clip is one a few transition opportunities against Atlanta when he sprinted hard in transition, then faded to the corner for an open three. Check out where he starts and how hard he runs to his spot. Looking forward to the times when he keeps going to the rim for a high flying finish, but the open three-ball is nice.
Here is another clip of Sheppard easily stymieing a Hawks transition opportunity from getting to the rim. However, the play also exposed a couple of areas of growth .
For starters, Sheppard was caught in a hands-down-man-down situation after rebuffing AJ Griffin’s effort to get to the rim. Griffin is already a three-point sniper in his second year and like others of his ilk in the NBA, Shep can’t allow any airspace to allow him to snap off a three ball.
On the flip side of the development curve for Sheppard, the shot Griffin drilled is one Shep needs to get comfortable hitting, as well. The rook’s open threes found the bottom of the net in aesthetically pleasing fashion throughout preseason. But those contested threes were a struggle to convert. Reading the defense and understanding how much of that airspace you need to stick a three in their eye, is the next level for Sheppard to strive for as a shooter.
Fortunately, we’ve already learned he has that dawg in him along with the work ethic to get where he wants to go…and in a hurry.
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