Spurs find running mate for Victor Wembanyama; Rockets stand pat at No. 3 and take Reed Sheppard

The San Antonio Spurs entered the NBA draft with two picks in the top eight.

They only decided to keep one of them.

The Spurs gave last year’s No. 1 overall pick and NBA rookie of the year Victor Wembanyama a running mate by selecting guard Stephon Castle from Connecticut with the fourth overall pick in the draft Wednesday night, a pairing that will aid in San Antonio’s ongoing youth movement in the Southwest Division.

The Spurs selected Rob Dillingham from Kentucky with the eighth overall pick but dealt the pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves moments later for first-round draft picks in 2030 and 2031.

Castle averaged 11.1 points per game last season and helped the Huskies to a national championship as a freshman while playing mostly off the ball. He is expected to play point guard for San Antonio.

The Spurs came back on Thursday and added 6-foot-7 wing Harrison Ingram from North Carolina in the second round, giving them a player who can stretch the defense and rebound.

Shortly after Castle was drafted, he received a call from Wembanyama.

“We were just talking about coming down to San Antonio and how we just can’t wait to get to work,” Castle said. “I just can’t wait to get out there and show my versatility, especially with the kind of talent that we already have on that team.

Added Castle: “It being the youngest team in the league right now, I feel like our future is pretty bright.”

The Houston Rockets, another team in the midst of a youth movement, were rumored to be interested in trading for Kevin Durant leading up the draft, but had a relatively quiet night. They kept the No. 3 overall pick and selected Kentucky sharpshooter Reed Sheppard.

Like Castle, Sheppard was a one-and-done college player. The 52% 3-point shooter will bring some needed outside firepower to the Rockets.

While the Spurs and Rockets were upgrading their backcourt, the Grizzlies went big — real big. They selected 7-foot-4, 300-pound Zach Edey from Purdue with the ninth overall pick, giving them a huge presence in the middle.

The Pelicans took forward Yves Missi, who was raised in Cameroon and played at Baylor. He’s considered an outstanding a rim-runner and shot-blocker with the benefit of a 7-foot-2 wingspan.

An overview of draft night for the Southwest Division teams:

Houston Rockets

Needs: Houston needed an elite shooter to add to an improving team filled with young talent as the Rockets had a top-5 pick for the fourth straight year.

Who they drafted: Kentucky guard Reed Sheppard at No 3. Houston guard Jamal Shead at No. 45, but traded the pick to Dallas.

NBA comparison: Though he certainly has a long way to go, Sheppard has reminded some of Hall of Famer Steve Nash because he plays bigger than his size and is a catch-and-shoot threat with a strong feel for the game.

Memphis Grizzlies

Needs: A big man in the middle to anchor the front line. Knockdown shooters always welcome.

Who they drafted: C Zach Edey of Purdue at No. 9; F Jaylen Wells of Washington State at No. 39; Connecticut guard Cam Spencer at No. 53.

NBA comparisons: Edey’s closest comparison is Jonas Valanciunas, center for the New Orleans Pelicans, because of Edey’s height and bulk in the middle. The two-time Associated Press player of the year has great touch around the basket. Edey improved in each of his four years at Purdue, reaching 25.2 points a game and 12.2 rebounds a game last season before losing 75-60 to UConn in the national championship game. Wells played only one season at the D-I level after transferring from Sonoma State. Spencer, a 6-foot-3 guard has a reputation as a good shooter and a competitive nature, was a senior and made the Final Four All-Tournament team earlier this year. He connected on 48.4 % of his shots overall last season, including 99 of 225 (44%). Spencer averaged 14.3 points a game and 3.6 assists.

New Orleans Pelicans

Needs: A hole at center with Jonas Valanciunas an unrestricted free agent.

Who they drafted: Center Yves Missi from Baylor at No. 21. Traded up to No. 47 in the second round to draft Kentucky guard Antonio Reaves.

NBA comparison: Misi plays a lot like Dereck Lively II. Missi, who was born in Belgium but grew up in Cameroon, averaged 10.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks while shooting 61.4 percent as a freshman for the Bears. Still relatively raw, he began playing basketball at age 16. Reaves is a solid outside shooter, but could have a tough time getting off his set shot 3-point jumper in the NBA.

San Antonio Spurs

Needs: The Spurs need playmaking and outside shooting to complement Wembanyama’s dynamic game and the team’s up-tempo style. A guard that can get Wembanyama the ball on the break and especially one that can consistently feed the 7-foot-5 center lobs for slam dunks is ideal.

Who they drafted: Spurs selected Stephon Castle at No. 4; Harrison Ingram at No. 45. They also selected Rob Dillingham at No. 8 and Johnny Furphy in the second round, but traded those picks away.

NBA comparison: Because of his size, Castle has been compared to guards with similar builds such as Dyson Daniels and Terrence Mann, but his game is most like Sacramento Kings guard D’Aaron Fox and former Spurs guard Dejounte Murray. Athletic with an ability to score, Castle needs to improve his outside jumper just as Fox and Murray did. Ingram is a taller version of Joe Johnson with a solid outside shot.

Dallas Mavericks

Needs: The Mavericks need more pieces to put around Luke Doncic and Kyrie Irving and the playoffs proved that upgrading the defense is a major necessity.

Who they drafted: Traded up from No. 58 to 51 and drafted 6-foot-8 SF Melvin Ajinca of France.

NBA comparison: Ajinca might remind some of Jae Crowder. The 6-foot-8 Ajinca is just 19 and played in France’s top division with Saint-Quentin, where he averaged 10.2 points per game on 39.9% shooting from the field.


AP Sports Writers Kristie Rieken in Houston, Associated Press writers Clay Bailey, Guerry Smith, Raul Dominguez and Jeff Miller contributed to this report.


AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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