The San Antonio Spurs are still feeding off the high of landing Victor Wembanyama, but it is time for the franchise to start looking toward the future. The preseason will begin before we know it, and fans are expecting big things. The front office added to their hoard of young talent this summer, selecting Sidy Cissoko at the end of the second round, and he will have a chance to crack the nightly rotation.
Cissoko is a do-it-all player who can fill several roles for the Spurs, and he has a knack for finding ways to contribute to winning basketball even when he isn't putting points on the scoreboard. The 19-year-old prospect could surprise NBA pundits with his production as a rookie, and he could end up being better than several of the first-round picks taken ahead of him in the 2023 NBA Draft.
1.) Ben Sheppard
Sheppard is a 6-foot-6 guard the Indiana Pacers selected with the 26th overall pick. He earned back-to-back all-conference honors, but that was at Belmont University. The Bruins are a quality program, so no disrespect to them, but receiving that honor in a mid-major conference doesn't hold as much weight when you face off against lesser competition.
Though his numbers increased across the board during his senior season, Cissoko is the better all-around player. Sheppard can shoot the lights out from three, but Sidy has more versatility on either end of the court. While the first-rounder can defend guards, Cissoko can cover all five positions for the Spurs, offering them lots of wiggle room as the league continues to embrace small-ball lineups. He could also provide backup when the team is shorthanded or teammates get into foul trouble.
Sheppard might have a more polished offensive game, especially from beyond the arc. The 22-year-old swingman also averaged a career-high 2.9 assists per game at Belmont last season. However, he lacks the ability to get everyone involved like his San Antonio counterpart. Sheppard will have a solid career if he can put the ball in the basket efficiently. And while scoring is undoubtedly important, how can anyone pass up on the versatility Cissoko brings to the hardwood?
Skills and intangibles should allow Cissoko to have a better rookie season than Sheppard. Suiting up for the G League Ignite has him better acclimated to provide an immediate impact at the highest level of the professional game. As for Sheppard, he may struggle to transition from a mid-major to the NBA and take some time to get adjusted.