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

Wed, Jun 26, 2024
NBA News (AP)

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.

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.

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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.

"If it isn't 3-point shooting, I want to get my teammates involved - anything I can to help us win," Sheppard said.

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.

The Dallas Mavericks, fresh off an NBA Finals loss to the Boston Celtics, did not have a first-round draft pick.

An overview of draft night for the Southwest Division teams:


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. Sheppard averaged 12.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.5 steals while appearing in 33 games in his one season with 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.

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.


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

Who they drafted: C Zach Edey from Purdue at No. 9 overall.

NBA comparison: Jonas Valanciunas, center for the New Orleans Pelicans, because of Edey's height and bulk in the middle. He has the size at 7-foot-4 and 300 pounds and touch around the basket. Valanciunas was with the Grizzlies and was able to score in the middle. 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. Once Portland picked Donovan Clingan two spots before Memphis, Edey was the next available big man to fill Memphis' needs.


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

Who they drafted: Center Yves Missi from Baylor at No. 21.

NBA comparison: He 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.


Needs: A point guard and a small forward to pair with French superstar Victor Wembanyama. 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 select Stephon Castle at No. 4 and Rob Dillingham with the eighth pick. Castle, 6-foot-6 and 210 pounds, is expected to be the team's point guard of the future. Dillingham was immediately traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

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.


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. But with no pick in the first round, the Western Conference champs will have to wait until free agency to address those needs.

Who they drafted: Had no picks in first round.

Looking ahead: By reaching the playoffs, the Mavericks conveyed the 24th overall pick in the first round to the New York Knicks as the final condition for the 2019 blockbuster that brought Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas. The Mavs have the final pick in the draft at No. 58 on Thursday, low enough that they figure to be targeting the highest player left on their board. Don't be surprised if general manager Nico Harrison makes a move up for a player he likes. The Mavs went into each of Harrison's first two drafts in 2021-22 without a pick, but he traded into the second round in 2022 to get Jaden Hardy.


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


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