The 2024 NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and the Dallas Mavericks continues, with the Celtics needing to win only two games to hang banner number 18 on the TD Garden rafters. But the 28 other franchises are gearing up for next season, with the intention of making it as deep as those two aforementioned teams did. The next order of business following the Finals is the NBA Draft, with Kentucky guard Reed Sheppard warranting strong consideration to be selected within the top five.

Sheppard's athleticism is one of his main selling points as a prospect; the Kentucky guard tallied a 42-inch vertical leap, which tied him for the best among the prospects in the NBA Draft combine. But the long ball is where the 19-year old guard butters his bread. He shot a scorching hot 52.1 percent from beyond the arc this past season, and he did so on 3.6 attempts per night — stellar numbers.

In so doing, Reed Sheppard is on track to be the first collegiate first-rounder in 35 years to make over 50 percent of his threes throughout the course of a season, per Jonathan Givony of ESPN and Draft Express. The last player to do so was Glen Rice, a man who had a fruitful 15-year career in the NBA. Rice, in his senior season with the Michigan Wolverines in 1989, shot 51.6 from deep on 5.2 attempts per contest, making him way ahead of his time.

It's important to note that Rice was 22 years of age when he entered the NBA; Sheppard will only be 20 come draft night. Sheppard is already an elite sniper from long range even at such a young age, which bodes well for his progression as a long-term keeper for any team in the lottery.

This past season with Kentucky, Sheppard made 56 of his 109 catch-and-shoot attempts from beyond the arc. Thus, he could be strong plug-and-play option from the get-go. Teams can put him on the floor and expect, with a certain degree of confidence, that he can be impactful with the way he can space the floor.

Kentucky guards are must-have

Reed Sheppard, on his own, has a ton of merit as a top-10 prospect in this year's draft. His athleticism and shooting make him quite an appealing option for teams at the top of the draft, as those suggest that he could fashion for himself a long career in the NBA. He may have to work on his ballhandling and playmaking, with him being a 6'3 guard, but he has long-term keeper written all over him thanks to the skillset he already has.

Even then, Sheppard's prospect pedigree, what with him being a Kentucky product, should make him that much more of a desirable target for teams picking in the top 10. Kentucky guards have seemingly always panned out, becoming quality players or even stars of their respective teams, regardless of draft position.

For instance, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, is a Kentucky product who has done nothing but improve since he entered the league in 2018. He finished second in NBA MVP voting this season. One of his backcourt mates, Cason Wallace, was the 10th overall selection last year and he ended up playing a huge role for the Oklahoma City Thunder amid their impressive breakout year.

Meanwhile, Tyrese Maxey is a legitimate superstar, Jamal Murray is an NBA champion, De'Aaron Fox and Devin Booker are All-NBA players, Tyler Herro is a former Sixth Man of the Year, Immanuel Quickley is the lead guard for Toronto Raptors, and Malik Monk has been a dynamic scorer off the bench.

Going back, Rajon Rondo is a basketball genius who could make the Hall of Fame, John Wall was a bonafide star before injuries got to him, while Eric Bledsoe was dubbed as “mini LeBron” during his heyday.

There is something in the water in Kentucky that enables their guards to, more often than not, develop to their full potential. There may be some disappointments, such as the Harrison twins and Marquis Teague, but the track record is definitely there to convince teams that Reed Sheppard may be the next Kentucky guard to make waves in the NBA.

Reed Sheppard to the Hornets?

The latest mock draft by ClutchPoints insider Brett Siegel has Reed Sheppard going sixth to the Charlotte Hornets in the upcoming draft. Siegel wrote that the Hornets are looking for backcourt scoring alongside LaMelo Ball, and Sheppard could be that guy.

Ball is 6'7, so it's not like the Hornets will be fielding an undersized backcourt should they select the 6'3 guard out of Kentucky. Ball has to step up defensively, but Sheppard has the physical tools to hold his own. Meanwhile, on offense, Sheppard should feast on the open looks Ball creates.