Houston Rockets add elite shooter by taking Kentucky’s Reed Sheppard at No. 3 overall in NBA draft

HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Rockets selected Reed Sheppard with the third overall pick in the NBA draft Wednesday night, adding a elite long-range shooter to their young team.

“We ended up with Reed as the best player in the draft by quite a bit, the best prospect we thought… and kind of the only guy we were really focused on,” general manager Rafael Stone said. “So if he had not gotten to us we would have probably traded down or out of the draft. When we had the opportunity to pick him, we jumped on it.”

The guard, who spent one season at Kentucky, was the first American taken in this year’s draft after French players Zaccharie Risacher and Alex Sarr were selected by Atlanta and Washington with the top two picks.

Sheppard said he’d dreamed of this moment since he was a little kid. His big night was made even more special by having his parents Jeff and Stacey Sheppard, who also both played at Kentucky, there with him. He turned 20 on Monday.

“It’s my mom’s birthday today,” he said. “So that’s an awesome thing to celebrate as well.”

Sheppard averaged 12.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.5 steals while appearing in 33 games for the Wildcats. He shot 52.1% from 3-point range and made 83.1% of his free throws. He was the only player in the nation last season to have at least 145 assists, 80 steals and make at least 75 3-pointers.

Sheppard became the second player in school history to have at least 80 steals in a season despite starting just five games. It’s the 17th consecutive year that Kentucky has had at least one player selected in the NBA draft.

“Our evaluation was that Reed has a very special skillset that gives him a chance to be special in the NBA,” Stone said.

At 6-foot-2 and 182 pounds, Sheppard is among the smallest players in this year’s draft, but is also thought by many draft analysts to be the best shooter.

Sheppard is the latest high draft pick to join the rebuilding Rockets in recent years. They took Amen Thompson fourth last year after adding Jabari Smith Jr. with the third pick in 2022 and Jalen Green second in 2021.

Stone was asked how he thinks Sheppard will fit with his new team.

“He can really shoot and he can really pass, so players like that fit in every offense,” he said.

The Rockets missed the playoffs for a fourth straight season this year but made a significant jump in their first year under coach Ime Udoka after adding veterans Dillon Brooks and Fred VanVleet. Houston went 41-41 after winning just 17, 20 and 22 games in the previous three seasons.

“I’m super excited,” Sheppard said. “They have a really good thing going in Houston. Coach is really good. They have Jalen. They have a bunch of really young athletic guys and we’ll be able to play fast and it’s going to be fun.”

He is looking forward to playing with VanVleet, a fellow undersized guard who will be entering his ninth season in the NBA.

“The biggest thing is just going in and learning,” he said. “They have guys like Fred VanVleet that I’ll be able to learn from. Just going in with an open mind, ready to learn, ready to do whatever it takes to win and just compete.”

Stone believes VanVleet will help Sheppard, just as he aided many players on the roster in his first year in Houston last season.

“I think that’s an invaluable experience,” Stone said. “Fred was amazing for all of our players last year, even the veterans. Fred’s probably the most professional and toughest NBA player I’ve ever been around in 20 years in this league. So I think it’s a blessing for Reed to come into this situation.”


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