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

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

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

They decided to keep only one of them.

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

The Spurs selected Rob Dillingham from Kentucky as the eighth pick, but the selection to the Minnesota Timberwolves shortly thereafter for first-round draft picks in 2030 and 2031.

Castle averaged 11.1 points per game last season and helped the Huskies win the national championship as a freshman, 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 to San Antonio and how much we can’t wait to get to work,” Castle said. “I can’t wait to get out there and show my versatility, especially with the talent we already have on this team.”

Castle added: “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 ahead of the draft, but had a relatively quiet night. They kept the 3rd pick and selected Sniper Reed Sheppard from Kentucky.

Like Castle, Sheppard was a college player who retired after just one year. The 52% 3-point shooter will give the Rockets some needed firepower on the outside.

“If it’s not a three-point shot, I want to get my teammates involved – anything I can do to help us win,” Sheppard said.

While the Spurs and Rockets upgraded their backcourt, the Grizzlies went big – really big. They selected 7-foot-4, 295-pound Zach Edey from Purdue with the ninth overall pick, giving themselves a formidable presence in the midfield.

The Pelicans signed forward Yves Missi, who grew up in Cameroon and played at Baylor. He is considered an excellent rim runner and shot blocker with a 7-foot-6 wingspan.

The Dallas Mavericks, who had just lost to the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals, did not have a first-round draft pick.

An overview of Draft Night for the Southwest Division teams:

HOUSTON ROCKETS

Need: Houston needed an elite shooter to back up its improving team full of young talent as the Rockets had a top-5 pick for the fourth year in a row.

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 in his only season with the Wildcats, appearing in 33 games. He made 52.1% of his 3-pointers and 83.1% of his free throws. He was the only player in the nation last season to record at least 145 assists, 80 steals and at least 75 3-pointers.

NBA Comparison: While he certainly has a long way to go, Sheppard reminds some of Hall of Famer Steve Nash because he plays bigger than is typical for his size, is dangerous at catch-and-shoot, and has a keen sense of the game.

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES

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

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

NBA Comparison: Jonas Valanciunas, center for the New Orleans Pelicans, because of Edey’s size and bulk at center. At 6’4″ and 295 pounds, he has the size and good sense around the basket. Valanciunas played for the Grizzlies and could score at center. Edey improved in each of his four years at Purdue, averaging 25.2 points per game and 12.2 rebounds per game last season before losing 75-60 to UConn in the national championship game. After Portland selected Donovan Clingan two spots ahead of Memphis, Edey was the next available big man to fill Memphis’ needs.

NEW ORLEANS PELICANS

Need: A gap in the middle with Jonas Valanciunas being an unrestricted free agent.

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

NBA comparison: He plays very similarly to 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 with a 61.4 percent shooting percentage as a rookie for the Bears. He started playing basketball at the age of 16 with little experience.

SAN ANTONIO SPURS

Need: A point guard and a small forward to pair with French superstar Victor Wembanyama. The Spurs need playmakers and long-range shooters to complement Wembanyama’s dynamic game and the team’s fast-paced style. A guard who can feed Wembanyama the ball on the break, and especially one who can consistently feed the 7’1″ center with lobs for slam dunks, is ideal.

Who they drafted: The Spurs selected Stephon Castle with the No. 4 pick and Rob Dillingham with the No. 8 pick. Castle, 6-foot-6 and 215 pounds, is expected to be the team’s point guard of the future. Dillingham was immediately traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

NBA Comparison: Due to his size, Castle has been compared to similarly built guards like Dyson Daniels and Terrence Mann, but his game most resembles Sacramento Kings guard D’Aaron Fox and former Spurs guard Dejounte Murray. Castle is athletic and scores, but he needs to improve his jump shot from distance, just like Fox and Murray have done.

DALLAS MAVERICKS

Need: The Mavericks need more players to back up Luke Doncic and Kyrie Irving, and the playoffs have shown that strengthening the defense is a dire need. But with no first-round pick, the Western Conference champions will have to wait until free agency to fill that need.

Who they drafted: Had no first-round picks.

Outlook: With the playoffs in sight, the Mavericks traded the 24th pick in the first round to the New York Knicks as the final condition of 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 to target the highest-ranked player on their roster. Don’t be surprised if general manager Nico Harrison takes a player he likes. The Mavs went into Harrison’s first two drafts in 2021-22 with no picks, but he traded up to the second round in 2022 to get Jaden Hardy.

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

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NBA players: https://apnews.com/hub/nba And https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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