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Rob Dillingham is 'openly campaigning' to play with Victor Wembanyama in San Antonio

Jack PIlgrimby:Jack Pilgrim06/14/24

It’s no secret that the San Antonio Spurs are in prime draft position for Reed Sheppard and Rob Dillingham, arguably the two top college talents on the board — both conveniently from Kentucky. The former is a consensus top-five pick while the latter is expected to go somewhere in the top 10, an ankle injury limiting him from participating in pre-draft workouts up to this point.

Meanwhile, the Spurs have two top-10 picks, one at No. 4 and the other at No. 8. They could make selections with both, package them to move up or trade for a star to pair with Victor Wembanyama, the brightest up-and-coming talent the NBA has seen in recent memory.

One way or another, San Antonio is sitting moving forward.

Should they decide to pick at No. 4 and/or No. 8, Sheppard and Dillingham are seen as the top players to pair with Wembanyama, according to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony. The former is the best fit with their first selection while the latter could be taken with either pick.

The case for Reed Sheppard

The conversation starts with Sheppard, though, who would give the Spurs the shooting help they desperately need.

“The Spurs were a fraction of a percentage point from being ranked the worst 3-point shooting team in the NBA at 34.7% last season. … It will be important to surround Wembanyama with enough floor spacing to ensure entire defenses don’t collapse on his drives every time he puts the ball down,” Givony said. “… Enter Sheppard, the best shooter in this draft class, who made a blistering 52% of his 3-pointers at Kentucky. Sheppard has an excellent feel for the game creating for others, and is a reliable decision-maker who makes the game easy for teammates with his patient, unselfish approach.

“Sheppard wasn’t prolific operating out of pick-and-roll, at times playing with the brakes on at Kentucky more than one would hope, but he did show sparks of ability by making intelligent reads out of ball screens. This is an area he can continue to grow in alongside Wembanyama, who is one of the league’s best lob targets but also dangerous popping out beyond the 3-point line, operating out of short rolls and finishing with tremendous touch and creativity rolling to the rim skillfully with his 8-foot wingspan. Sheppard’s team-first mentality — for example, happily coming off the bench all season at Kentucky even though he should have been starting — make him well suited for playing in the shadow of Wembanyama and all that comes along with that.”

How about Rob Dillingham?

That’s option No. 1 for San Antonio, assuming he doesn’t come off the board between the first and third picks to Atlanta, Washington or Houston — certainly no guarantee. As for option No. 2, Dillingham is a clear fit there at either No. 4 or 8.

“Surrounding Wembanyama with better shooters — Dillingham converted 44% of his 3-pointers this season — will be beneficial, but also adding a dynamic ball handler who excels in pick-and-roll, has speed to burn turning defense to offense in the open court, and can go get his own shot almost anytime he pleases could surely help,” Givony said. “Dillingham is lightning in a bottle, ranking as one of the best scorers in this draft class already as a freshman. He’s also an underrated passer who has real creativity dishing off a live dribble — a skill he can continue to hone. His biggest concern — his size at 6-2, 164 pounds, with a 6-3 wingspan — can be mitigated to an extent by operating off Wembanyama, who is already the NBA’s premier rim-protector.”

Dillingham wants to play with Wemby

Now here is where things get interesting. Givony is reporting that Dillingham has been “openly campaigning” for the Spurs to select him with either pick, hoping — if not begging — to be paired with Wembanyama.

“While some around the league don’t view Dillingham as a ‘Spursy’ type of pick based on their drafting track record, he has been openly campaigning to be picked by San Antonio,” he said. “There’d be no questions about how he’d view the team hierarchy if the Spurs pair him with Wembanyama. At the NBA draft combine in Chicago, Dillingham said, ‘He could be one of the best players ever. If I’m playing with Wemby, it’s obvious — I am coming in to give Wemby the ball.'”

An easy way to solve this issue if you’re San Antonio? Select Sheppard at No. 4 and Dillingham at No. 8. And then while you’re at it, how about picking Antonio Reeves at No. 35 to round out the Kentucky trio?

That’s an easy way to sell three sets of jerseys per household in the Commonwealth if the Spurs are looking to add new fans.

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