The Portland Trail Blazers surprised many watching the 2022 NBA draft when they elected to keep the No. 7 overall pick and select Kentucky’s Shaedon Sharpe.
While the Trail Blazers considered multiple options with the pick, they ultimately held on and drafted who many are declaring the biggest mystery in the draft.
Sharpe, 19, is a bit of a risk for the Blazers. After joining Kentucky in January as one of the top players in the nation, he didn’t play a game for the Wildcats this past season and decided to prepare for the draft.
Sharpe is an explosive athlete who can score on all three levels of the floor. He has a great combination of size, length, frame, scoring instincts, and defensive versatility.
But how Sharpe’s skills translate to the NBA after such a long time away from the floor, plus playing on a completely different level of basketball, makes him a mystery heading into the league. That said, those concerns were offset for the Blazers by his immense potential and talent, which makes him a risk worth taking for Portland.
That’s been reflected in the draft grades the Blazers received for the Sharpe selection. Here’s a recap of the grades Portland has received, which have been mostly positive and complimentary of the pick:
Interesting. The Blazers, who need as much win-now talent as anyone as they try to rapidly retool around 31-year-old Damian Lillard, just spent a top-10 pick on someone who hasn’t played a game in a year. Then again, they also just snagged someone with a sky-high ceiling at both ends, so it’s hard to complain.
The boldness from the Blazers here is commendable. If there was a way to spend this pick and not have it lose trade value, this was probably the path, since Sharpe has such enormous potential.
Sharpe might be risky in the short term, but this is a tremendous get for the Blazers. Portland was rumored to be shopping this pick and could still move Sharpe, but he provides a tremendous upside bet for Portland. He has an extremely high ceiling and could have been in the running to be the top pick if he hadn’t sat out last season at Kentucky. He may not help the Blazers win games in 2022-23, but long term he could be the best scorer in this draft.
I found this pick a tad bit surprising from Portland, considering the Blazers seem to want to make a run at the playoffs in the short-term and Sharpe (who sat out at Kentucky this season) doesn’t quite fall in concert with that, but his ability to score the ball and unusual athletic gifts are pretty remarkable. The Blazers are clearly taking the long view with this pick, recognizing an opportunity to take a swing on their next potential star. I liked Dyson Daniels as a fit here better, and I don’t think this was necessarily what I would have done, but Sharpe is talented enough to make us all look stupid. He has a long way to go, but he’s so physically gifted that his path to being a difference-maker could be shorter than we expect.
There will be major questions about Sharpe’s feel for the game, how he translates defensively, and what kind of passer he is. It sure seemed like he settled for tough shots too often against the high school level, even if those shots often went in. Still, we’re giving this pick a high grade because of Sharpe’s tools. With the right amount of patience and development, Sharpe can eventually be a really good player who does things you can’t teach. This is a nice upside swing by the Blazers even if it’s a risky pick.
Sharpe is the biggest question mark of the draft and will need additional time to adjust to the NBA’s pace and spacing after not logging a single minute at Kentucky. If the Trail Blazers are patient, Sharpe might have ended up in the perfect situation playing alongside Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons in the backcourt.
Sharpe has been called a “mystery man” so many times it’s become annoying, but there really is a huge disparity between his floor and his ceiling. Either way, he should serve as enticing trade fodder as the Blazers attempt to once again build a contender around Damian Lillard. And if Lillard should ever leave the franchise, Sharpe could be the next cornerstone. Nabbing Walker with the penultimate pick in the draft could also end up filling a frontcourt void.
– Aron Yohannes