What is Shaedon Sharpe? Future bust? Future superstar? Role playing? Sharpe is the mystery of this Thursday’s draft. He could be many different things, perhaps several things at once. The only thing we know for sure is that he’s going to be a Lottery picker. However, Sharpe has been predicted to make the Top 10 in most of the available test drafts. Raw potential, size, athleticism, and even mystery, make Sharpe the most attractive player heading into the 2022-2023 NBA season.
The 19-year-old, 6-foot-6-year-old from Canada sat out his entire freshman season with Kentucky due to mysterious qualifying circumstances. Many thought Sharpe would return to court once he returned to Wildcats activities. However, that was addressed by Kentucky head coach John Calipari.
“I told his parents I wouldn’t put him in a position where he would make himself miserable,” Calipari said. “I don’t. And we’re going to do this, this process, and if he ends up playing this year because he has the ability to do it and he can play, we’ll play him. But I’m not just pushing him in so we can win another game or stay closer. I’m not going to do that.”
It never really explained what the hell was going on. And the public, other than the NBA insiders, will never know. So we have to consider what Sharpe could have in the NBA?
During Sharpe’s senior year at Dream City Christian, Arizona, he was ranked #1 in his class by ESPN, 247Sports and Rivals. Hence the hype surrounding him, as he is only the second number 1 five-star pick of Kentucky, after Nerlens Noel in 2013.
The Canadian is another in a long line of excellent players coming from our northern neighbors, starting with Steve Nash and continuing with R.J. Barrett, Andrew Wiggins, Jamal Murray, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Dillon Brooks, and Lu Dort. By entering this year’s draft, Sharpe is riding the wave of his abstraction. If he were to go back to college and get hurt or show that he’s not as pro-ready as we all thought he was, his stock would plummet. Even with zero collegiate tape to review, he’s destined to be a lottery pick.
Outside of the college game, Sharpe averaged 22.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 36.1 percent from 3 on the Nike EYBL circuit in 2021, per Cerebro Sports. While competing in the international elite prep basketball circuit, The Grind Session, he averaged 18.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.4 steals, and 0.8 blocks per game.
Physically, Sharpe is the whole package — he possesses a lightning-quick first step, a penchant for excelling downhill, and a dynamic toolset to finish around the rim. Scouts marveled during the combine at his improved ball-handling, pull-up jump shot, and accuracy from the three-point line. The downside is none of these observations occurred during a regular NCAA season. Even more critical is the NCAA Tournament. We have yet to see how Sharpe performs on the biggest stages during crunch time. Dominating in high school is still just high school.
There are clear red flags that would make his fit in Detroit or any of the developing teams in the top seven worrisome. There have been critiques of his motor dating back to high school. Scouts have described Sharpe as bored and uninterested on defense, terrible qualifiers for a kid who has all the physical gifts to be a two-way stud. Effort is unteachable. You either have it, or you don’t. It’s not something that suddenly changes once you begin playing against the best players in the world.
If he were to land in Detroit or Sacramento, two of the most-likely situations barring trades, he would be joining teams with long histories of losing. While Detroit has fared better than Sacramento recently in draft selections and player development, Sharpe would at least be playing next to a pure point guard in Cade Cunningham. This could be the best-case scenario for the young prodigy. If the ball were out of his hands, it would be easier to acclimate Sharpe into head coach Dwayne Casey’s system. Cunningham is a great facilitator, even as a rookie this year. He also dealt with motor issues in college but has proven to be ready for the bright lights of the NBA grind.
The Pistons are growing something special in Detroit and doing it at a slow-and-steady pace. Sharpe could be the three-level scorer their roster needs to act as a shot of adrenaline on offense. And playing next to the steady hand of Cunningham would give the Pistons a larger-than-life backcourt that could grow and mold together, as the team builds toward being more than an unknown quantity. It’s a situation that can lift an enigma to the light to inspect it for what it is and can be.