3 NCAA Tournament prospects to watch if the Raptors can keep their first-round pick

Reed Sheppard, Kentucky Wildcats
Reed Sheppard, Kentucky Wildcats / Andy Lyons/GettyImages
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No. 1: Reed Sheppard, Kentucky Wildcats

One of the most polarizing players in the 2024 NBA Draft cycle is Kentucky guard Reed Sheppard. Players generally don't go from outside the Top 30 of the recruiting rankings to a Top-5 pick in the NBA Draft in one year, but Sheppard has forced himself up the ladder at Kentucky and has nearly everything an NBA team could want in a guard prospect.

Sheppard, despite continuing to come off the bench for the Wildcats, is averaging 12.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists and a whopping 2.5 steals per game. He is hitting 3-pointers on a scorching 52.5 percent shooting, averaging 2.3 makes per game. He's even blocking almost a shot per game despite being generously listed as 6'3" tall.

The height is the biggest factor to consider, because Sheppard is otherwise playing like a No. 1 overall pick and making a name for himself despite being on a Kentucky team loaded with top recruits and other NBA prospects. The Wildcats have been up-and-down all season, but Sheppard has been the one constant.

Sheppard's off-ball shooting should translate easily to the NBA, and he could be a different look to the movement shooting of Gradey Dick. His defensive instincts are at an elite level, and despite his size he is rebounding and even blocking shots.

Kentucky enters the NCAA Tournament as a No. 3 seed, and despite their offensive firepower they have been wildly inconsistent all season long. It's equally likely they are upset in the First Round as they make a run to the Final Four, but scouts will probably get at least a couple of games to see Sheppard in action.